Navigating Benefits

Should Your Organization Add Vision Coverage to Complement the Dental Plan?


  • The National Eye Institute reports that 66 percent of American adults use glasses, contact lenses or both

  • "Refractive errors" is the term used to describe the four common eye conditions that half the U.S. population deals with

  • Adding vision coverage to your organization's benefits plan can be the incentive employees need to get to an eye doctor

Posted by December 13, 2018

The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that more than 11 million Americans currently live with vision problems known as “refractive errors.” Thankfully, these issues can easily be corrected with contacts, prescription glasses or refractive surgery. However, only 42 percent of those who are visually impaired seek help—often because they’re without some form of vision coverage.

If your organization isn’t currently offering vision benefits along with its dental insurance plan, many of your colleagues may not be getting the eye care they need. Here’s what you and your company’s decision-makers need to know about adding vision coverage to the benefits package.

What Are Refractive Errors?

The eye’s cornea and lens helps people to see and focus. But if either are not shaped properly, the eye won’t be able to correctly bend or refract the light, causing blurry vision. This impairment is called a refractive error. Nearly half of the U.S. population has less than 20/20 vision, according to the NEI.

Here are the four types of refractive disorders many of your fellow employees may be grappling with:

  1. Myopia, or nearsightedness, is when your vision is clear close-up but objects and people appear blurry at a distance. Penn Medicine notes that people with myopia may be more prone to eye diseases like glaucoma and retinal detachment.
  2. Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is when objects appear clear at a distance but are blurry close-up. In cases of severe hyperopia, a person’s vision is blurred at all distances. Additionally, people with this condition may have a higher risk for certain forms of glaucoma.
  3. Presbyopia is due to the aging of the lens in the eye and is usually first noticed around the age of 40. Since the eye naturally loses its ability to focus on nearby objects over time, people typically begin to have trouble reading as they age. An individual who needs glasses to see things at a distance may need to wear bifocals in order to correct their myopia and presbyopia.
  4. Astigmatism commonly occurs with other refractive problems and is due to an uneven surface of the eye’s cornea. With this condition, the cornea is shaped more like a football than a basketball, causing blurry vision at all distances because the light is bent unequally.

It’s important to note that while glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery can correct myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism, there are no effective surgeries to correct presbyopia.

Pros and Cons of a Vision Plan

A big advantage to offering vision coverage is that employees who have been struggling on the job because of poor eyesight can take advantage of this benefit to correct any issues. This is likely to lead to more productive workers who are not making errors because of vision problems.

Of course, if there is an additional cost, employees may decide not to add it on to their dental coverage. There is also the chance they opt for it but don’t use it. However, there is never a disadvantage to having someone do their job with 20/20 vision—and most of the cons can be overcome by adequately marketing the program to the workforce and helping staff see the value in vision coverage.

Why a Vision Plan?

Vision benefits are also advantageous because just as a dental program focuses on prevention for optimum oral health, vision plans focus on the long-term health and wellness of an individual’s vision—and prevention is the key. Even if your colleagues don’t need corrective lenses, regular, preventive eye exams can benefit them by possibly revealing more serious eye issues like glaucoma (or other illnesses that may affect their general health). A vision plan offering a large network of providers will help employees save money on eye exams, glasses and contact lens, as well as laser treatments and other types of eye services.

Is adding a vision plan the right ancillary benefit to attach to your organization’s current dental plan? If you’re in doubt, call your current account representative for more information, and ask them for feedback as to how employees at other companies view and use their vision coverage.

Looking to make other updates to your company’s existing benefits plan? Check out the Dental Plan Navigator on United Concordia Dental’s website if you are interested in upgrading the dental plan offering.

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