According to a new study conducted for the National Association of Vision Care Plans (NAVCP) by an independent research firm, health care consumers who participate in full service, standalone vision insurance plans are 33.3 percent as likely to receive an annual comprehensive eye examination as those consumers who have vision care coverage bundled with their major medical plan (16.3 percent).

The study reviewed the eye exam usage patterns of nearly 85 million Americans enrolled in vision benefits programs during 2008 and 2009. The results indicate that vision plan membership has been on the rise, and eye exams have been used at a higher rate than membership, indicating consumers value the wellness component of their vision benefits. These plans often allow for early detection of chronic disease, as well as the need for vision correction. The study further bolsters the NAVCP’s position that standalone vision plans should be included within the health care exchanges contemplated by the recently passed health care reform legislation. This inclusion can be expected to significantly increase the number and frequency of Americans receiving routine, preventive eye care, as well as improve long-term medical outcomes.

The results overwhelmingly support the concept that a far greater proportion of Americans who have standalone vision care benefits understand the importance of regular eye health examinations than those Americans who have eye health insurance embedded within their broader medical insurance coverage. Standalone vision plans participating in the study yielded nearly 17 million consumer eye exams annually.

Utilization summary by plan type

Members

Exams

Utilization %

Exam and materials, standalone

50,253,582

16,721,809

33.3%

Exam and materials, bundled

7,205,883

1,175,261

16.3%

Exam-only, standalone

10,954,779

732,525

6.7%

Exam-only, bundled

5,020,795

352,826

7.0%

Medicare/Medicaid

11,545,621

1,887,183

16.3%

Children whose parents have standalone vision benefits are more likely to receive routine eye care according to the study. Parents with standalone vision benefits are more than twice as likely to take their children to the eye doctor (29 percent) than those with exam benefits bundled through their medical plans (12.5 percent).

Child utilization by plan type

Children

Members

Utilization %

Exam and materials, standalone

12,933,207

29.0%

Exam and materials, bundled

1,939,445

12.5%

Exam-only, standalone

2,225,463

7.4%

Exam-only, bundled

1,734,127

4.2%

Additionally, consumer continuity of care with standalone vision coverage is higher when compared with those consumers who have coverage bundled with major medical. The study revealed that 36 percent of patients with standalone coverage received an eye examination in consecutive years, compared with 22 percent of patients with bundled care.

Source: NAVCP