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Tips from a vision benefits pro: What makes a good vision network?

One of the highest drivers of employee satisfaction with a vision plan is network coverage. I’ve seen this consistently over the years – picking the right network is vital to making sure your employees are happy with the plan you’re offering.

But in reality, you may not have much of a choice. Most vision carriers offer a network with limited choice of types of providers, although some exceptions may apply for very large employers. So what we’re really talking about is picking a vision carrier with the right network mix for your employee population.

Tip 4: Look for these things in a vision network

In my 20 years of vision benefit experience, I’ve found that the right network includes a combination of choice, access and savings.

Choice

Today’s consumers are busy, and they want what they want. Look for a vision network with a mix of independent providers, retail chains and online solutions. But keep it simple. Your employees don’t want to spend their downtime picking through a tiered network offering – simplicity is better.

Make sure your network meets your employees where they’re already shopping. Millennials increasingly make up the workforce, and they prefer to do their shopping online, while Boomers may have independent providers they’ve seen for years. It’s important to give your employees access to a range of providers, to encourage them to use their benefits.

To give you an example; our company provides vision coverage to about 7 million members, and in 2018 this is where they used their benefits: 1

  • 62% saw independent eye doctors
  • 34% went to retail chains
  • 4% used their benefits online and elsewhere

Access

What good is your network if your employees can’t find an in-network provider nearby? The access standard I use is that every member should have at least two providers within 10 miles, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area. This standard has kept our clients and their members happy.

When choosing a vision carrier, a good measure of success is the percentage of claims that are being paid as in-network. That’s a good indicator that members are finding the providers they want to use, in-network.

Savings

Lastly, no matter which network you choose, it should offer savings to consumers. At the heart of any good network is negotiated discounts to minimize the out-of-pocket costs for members. Be sure to ask your carrier what their average network discount is. For example, one study shows that members save 63% off retail when using a network provider.2

Using the recipe of choice, access and savings, you can find a vision carrier offering a network that will keep your employees happy and healthy, and make you a sought-after employer for top talent.

1 Anthem Inc. data, 2018
2 Blue View Vision study. Example provided analyzed plan with $10 lens copay and $130 frame allowance for glasses or $130 contact lens allowance.

 

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.