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Tips from a vision benefits pro: Leverage vision coverage to impact your highest medical cost drivers

A growing trend in employee benefits is the integration of health and vision benefit plans. It’s called Integrated Health Care. It’s a “big data” benefit strategy that enhances a client’s clinical health and wellness program with vision data for early detection and management of health conditions.

Tip 5: Integration of medical and vision clinical data

To give you an example of what this looks like in action: Consumers are more likely to go for a vision exam than their annual physical. And there are at least seven high-risk health conditions that can be detected through a simple eye exam. So picture Joe, who has been avoiding his annual physical. He knows he needs to lose weight and take better care of his health, but he hasn’t made any progress since his last physical and doesn’t want to hear the same “lecture” from his doctor again. However, Joe makes it a point to visit to his eye doctor each year, because he needs his annual supply of contact lenses. If Joe’s eye doctor finds evidence of disease like diabetes or cardiovascular issues, Joe’s insurance carrier will receive notice of the diagnosis when his vision claim is submitted. That claim can trigger proactive outreach to help Joe get the extra support he needs to manage his health.

My company has been tracking employer actions regarding Integrated Health Care for the past six years and publishing a bi-annual Integrated Health Care Report. Some eye-opening findings in the latest report:

  • Every single one of the top 25 utilized drugs have vision and/or dental side effects.1 That’s why collaboration between health and vision providers is vital.
  • As of 2018, 69% of employers with 100+ employees were actively integrating their vision and health plans.2
  • More than 80% of employers with 100+ employees say they have to offer more integrated health care in order to compete for talent in a low-unemployment job market.2

If you aren’t integrating your benefits, you’re being left behind.

Many employers don’t realize their vision plan can be leveraged to help impact their highest health cost drivers like diabetes, cardiovascular and cancer spend. Earlier detection means earlier treatment, and earlier treatment could mean lower medical costs.

So look for a carrier that provides integrated medical and vision plans. And when you look at the time and money that your organization spends on a vision benefit plan, don’t think of it as just coverage for the eyes. It’s actually a cost-free way to enhance your existing clinical, health and wellness programs. It’s a classic “getting more for your money” scenario.

1Analysis of top utilized drugs and the side effects as described in Lippincott Drug Guide for Nurses, 2018.

2Integrated Health Care Report: Edition 3, 2018, Anthem Inc.

John Thorp is Staff Vice President of Vision Services at Anthem, Inc., and is a past board member of the National Association of Vision Care Plans (NAVCP). He is committed to improving the lives of the people Anthem serves through the integration of Blue View Vision with Anthem Whole Health Connections.