Most employers are unaware of the direct and indirect costs related to the eye health of their employee population. A 2013 analysis estimated the total economic burden attributable to eye disorders and vision loss to be $139 billion. The report also states that vision loss or impairment in working adults between the ages of 18 and 64 is responsible for an estimated $23.8 billion dollars in lost productivity annually. When you add workers over the age of 64, this number increases to more than $48 billion.
When it comes to benefit management priorities, chronic condition management is consistently at the top of employers’ lists, with diabetes as a main focus. But how many connect good vision health and eye care with the early detection and/or management of chronic diseases? Comprehensive eye exams can detect serious diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension earlier to better manage outcomes, including costs associated with complications.
Example: Emergency Room Visits
According to a 2017 study conducted by Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, one in four emergency room (ER) visits for eye problems aren’t actual emergencies. In many instances, employees and covered dependents use the emergency room and other medical services for eye-related issues that could be provided by a doctor of optometry in an office setting, with lower costs and less waiting time for the patient.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), each year less than 1% of the approximately 1.5 million visits to the ER for eye-related issues result in hospital admission. This means 99% of these ER visits could be handled in an eye care professional’s office, a much more cost-effective setting.
Making the Case for Vision Care
Providing employees with coverage for comprehensive eye exams can be a win-win, improving the eye health of employees and the financial health of your company. The American Optometric Association recommends employers should make annual dilated eye exams integral, not supplemental to employee medical plans.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vision Health Initiative and the National Eye Institute have partnered to make vision a health priority for the millennial generation. Taking simple steps today can protect your eyes for decades to come.
Think about the big picture as you consider this benefit and how it can help you to:
- Offer a valuable benefit to attract and retain employees
- Increase employee productivity, health and quality of life
- Detect and manage potential serious chronic conditions before they worsen
- Realize potential savings in both health and disability insurance costs