Short-sighted? Are employers missing out on top benefit?

It's the revolutionary new benefit which has the propensity to save lives

Short-sighted? Are employers missing out on top benefit?

In supporting employee vision health, not all employers have 20/20 vision.

Vision care benefits offered by employers have traditionally been limited to merely covering the costs of an eye exam and a small portion of the cost of prescription glasses once every two years.

While this approach was satisfactory in the past, what plan sponsors now fail to see is the significant health and workforce productivity gains that a modern and expanded vision care benefits plan yields, not to mention long-term cost savings for plan sponsors.

Eye exams and medical screenings
Despite common belief, group vision care benefits are not only for employees with existing vision issues. Modern eye exams offered by optometrists are far more comprehensive and complex than what they were twenty or thirty or even just ten years ago. A modern eye exam is one of the best screening tools for the early detection of both chronic eye and health conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, high blood pressure, diabetes, vascular conditions and others.

Early detection, prevention and management of such chronic diseases not only lead to a healthier workforce, they significantly contribute to reducing the cost of insurance in the long run as insurers and plan sponsors will spend less on pharmaceuticals, curative and rehabilitative services.

 “The way we think about a comprehensive eye exam goes far beyond a refraction test for prescription glasses or lenses every couple of years,” says François Couillard, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO).

“You might not know that you have vision issues at all,” he continued. “A new prescription may allow you to see more clearly, but you might also find out you’re at risk of glaucoma.”

Most employee health benefit plans do not reflect how much has changed in the delivery of vision care. Not only do plan sponsors undervalue the overall health benefits of modern vision care benefit plans, they also underestimate the significant long-term cost savings that an upfront investment in modern plans will lead to.

Why Canada needs a modern framework for group vision care benefits

  • Findings from CAO research show that vision care benefits are significantly underfunded compared with other benefits that are normally included in most health benefits plans.
  • With a multigenerational workforce, Canadian employers need to constantly reassess their benefits plan designs to ensure that they continue to respond to the changing needs of different age groups. For vision care benefits, such reassessment is overdue.
  • Benefits design is failing to address both advances in medicine and the changing needs of an aging workforce.
  • Over the long-term, undiagnosed issues related to vision care can cause significant expenses in other areas of benefits plans.
  • While two thirds of Canadians covered by a private group benefit plan have access to vision care benefits1, much of their expenditure on vision care remains out of pocket. This leads to underutilization of important preventive health services, chronic disease going undetected and to making vision care benefits one of the least satisfactory for plan members.

As the largest network of optometrists in Canada, the Canadian Association of Optometrists is working with stakeholders to create a modern framework for coverage and reimbursement for vision care benefits.

“It’s not a question of if your company should modernize your group vision care benefits – it’s whether you can afford not to,” Couillard noted.


[1] CAO commissioned Abacus Research poll, January, 2020

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