By Kate Renwick-Espinosa
The eyes are more than the windows to the soul. They’re the windows to your health.
One of the easiest, most cost-effective early detection systems for serious illness is the eye exam. This test can detect evidence of 273 chronic diseases, including some types of cancer, kidney disease, and hypertension, even before physical symptoms emerge.
One in five people with diabetes discovered their disease through an eye exam. And visible signs of retina damage are a useful marker for identifying cardiovascular disease before a heart attack or stroke occurs.
Yet while 84% of people consider vision their most important sense, half still skip their annual eye exams.
When Vision Care Is an Oversight
And it’s not just individuals who overlook this critical investment in their vision and overall health.
Many organizations decline to offer their employees vision care—a benefit that’s proving increasingly important to offer. In 2020, vision problems cost U.S. employers $575 billion in lost productivity, and vision problems in Americans age 40 and over have an estimated annual economic impact of more than $145 billion.
When an organization provides vision care and encourages employees to get their eyes checked once a year, the return on investment can be substantial. An eye exam can uncover the first warning signs of other health risks, and finding problems early permits medical interventions that can lower health care costs for both employers and individuals. Employers who offered stand-alone vision benefits saved $5.8 billion over four years, one recent study showed.
Beyond lowering an organization’s health spending and raising productivity, offering a vision plan can also increase employee satisfaction and engagement—no small matter in today’s volatile and competitive labor market.
In 2019, only 26% of private-industry employees had access to vision benefits. But today, as employees increasingly expect holistic employer-sponsored health care plans to support their mental and physical health, nearly 70% of workers say vision, dental, and wellness benefits influence their decision to stay with their employer—or move to a competitor.
Eye Health Is Business Health
Vision benefits are not just a “nice-to-have” benefit. It’s important for companies today to view vision as part of a holistic approach to health and preventive health care plans for employees.
Eye care is health care; eye health is business health. By investing in vision benefits with the right provider, your organization can make two gains at once. Offering a vision benefit is compassionate, supporting workforce wellness and attracting and retaining top talent. It’s also good business—a move to boost your productivity, reduce your downtime and health care costs, grow, and lead your competition.
For employees, vision benefits contribute to a new set of expectations for patient-centric health care that emphasizes the convenience and autonomy for employees to make their care decisions. Nearly half of consumers want insurers to offer more affordable plans, and 44% want better coverage, even from more expensive plans.
As with broader health and wellness plans, vision plans vary in coverage and quality, and companies need to choose their vision partner based on both employees’ health and corporate financial health. Organizations with a vision plan that thoroughly evaluates patients’ health and influences positive outcomes—coordinating care with health partners, identifying eligible members for disease management programs, and sending critical eye exam reminders—have been shown to have healthier employees.
A Vision for Your Future
The pandemic created a great reevaluation in employees’ personal values and priorities, driving a greater emphasis on health and wellness. Today, inflation is driving even more reassessments in business and consumer priorities.
In this challenging business environment, organizations can’t afford to cut corners on health care. Vision care, mental health, and other wellness benefits are an investment both in employees and business growth. Putting employees’ wellness at the core of business strategies can result in a long-lasting improvement in employee productivity, engagement, and retention.
Vision care is an investment both in employees and growth. Having the foresight to put employees’ expectations for wellness care at the core of your business strategy might claim more of your organization’s budget in the short term. But the goodwill and growth you can build by offering vision care may last a lot longer.
Kate Renwick-Espinosa is president of VSP Vision Care.