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Americans Place High Value on Eyesight, Yet Many Still Lack Vision Coverage
Date:10/8/2008

New Report Shows Only 17% of Employers Offer Vision Benefits

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- While concerns about the economy have taken center stage in the upcoming election, worries about the rising cost of health care still weigh heavily on the minds of most Americans. For the 120 million Americans with vision problems, as well as many other Americans who place a high value on maintaining healthy vision, the lack of vision coverage is a primary concern.

A new report by The Vision Council, Vision Care: Focusing on the Workplace Benefit, examines consumer and business perspectives on vision care and trends in vision care coverage. According to the report, two-thirds of Americans say they would be more willing to get an eye exam if they had some coverage, yet only 17 percent of employers report offering vision insurance. Vision benefits lag behind health and dental benefits, with as many as 44 percent of employers offering dental coverage.

"We know that in today's tough economy everyone is taking another look at their finances," said Ed Greene, chief executive officer for The Vision Council. "As the second most prevalent health condition in the country, vision disorders affect individuals and businesses, making vision coverage an important benefit for both groups."

Vision health is highly valued by most Americans according to the National Eye Institute. When asked what conditions would most affect their day-to-day living, a majority of Americans rated loss of eyesight as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

"Regular eye examinations are an important part of helping Americans maintain their health," said ophthalmologist Elaine G. Hathaway, M.D. "In addition to detecting vision problems and asymptomatic eye disorders, routine eye exams by an eye care professional can detect major health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes," she added.

While Americans place a high value on healthy vision, many have real concerns about paying for vision care. Nearly 40 percent fear they cannot afford adequate treatment. Sixty-three percent say they would sign up for vision care coverage if given the opportunity even if it meant paying a small amount each month.

With 11 million Americans living with an uncorrected vision problem, a number expected to rise as the population ages, the expense to businesses can also be severe. According to the report, the annual financial burden of major adult vision disorders exceeds $35 billion to the U.S. economy, including an estimated $8 billion in lost productivity.

"Uncorrected vision problems are very costly to employers, and it is important for them to recognize that vision health coverage not only maintains a healthy workforce, but has a positive impact on their bottom line," said Greene. For example, studies show that employers gain as much as $7 for every $1 spent on vision coverage.

As with many other benefits, employers are increasingly forced to pass along some of the cost of providing health insurance to employees. Offering vision coverage can help employers enhance their benefits package at a relatively low cost. Such coverage typically costs one-tenth that of medical benefits, and is often utilized more by employees than medical plans.

The Vision Council urges employees to take an active part in maintaining healthy vision by scheduling regular eye exams. Many vision-threatening conditions have no early warning signs; eye exams can also detect other serious health problems including diabetes and glaucoma.

"The good news is that there is greater awareness among employers and employees about the importance of healthy vision," said Greene. "However we still have a long way to meet the vision health needs that are valued greatly by Americans."

Dedicated to enhancing life through better vision, The Vision Council represents the manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry. We provide a forum to advocate for better vision and to promote quality vision care products and services in the global community.


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SOURCE The Vision Council
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