Coloradans are notoriously active and healthy, known for eating well and exercising regularly. But are they just as diligent about their vision health? Statistics would indicate the answer is probably not, since eye care is often overlooked as an essential component of overall health.
Fortunately, May is Healthy Vision Month and an ideal time to visit your eye care professional for that vision exam you may have been delaying or to update your current eyewear. Comprehensive eye exams ensure your eyes are healthy and free of serious eye diseases like glaucoma or macular degeneration, and guarantee you get the vision correction you need to see properly. In addition, eye exams can identify damaging chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, early in the disease progression.
Unfortunately, cost often prevents many of us from seeing our eye care professionals. But it doesn’t have to be this way, which is why as Executive Director of the National Association of Vision Care Plans (NAVCP) I am committed to ensuring everyone in Colorado has access to affordable, quality vision care.
According to a recent study commissioned by NAVCP, “Vision patients were most likely to cite cost as the number one barrier to care.” It’s no surprise, then, that enrollment in vision care plans has increased nearly 20 percent over the last five years. Or that 80 percent of all employers now provide managed vision care benefit options to their employees. Or that patients are four times more likely to seek professional eye care services from an eye care professional when offered vision benefits that cover an eye exam, as well as eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Increased managed vision care plan enrollment has led to lower costs for consumers, more patients for eye care professionals and healthier vision behavior. A win-win for patients, providers and employers. After all, healthy people are more productive both at work and at home.
We must maintain these positive, healthy vision behavior trends going forward. Unlike insurance for catastrophic health care and emergencies, vision care is predictable. At some point – right around age 40 or so – each of us will require vision correction, even if we are healthy in every other way. And let’s not forget the importance of proper vision to our children since 80 percent of childhood learning through age 12 is visual.
NAVCP is speaking up about the value of vision care benefits during Healthy Vision Month in part because a proposed bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress, if passed, would put up barriers to vision care. Patients and employers would be denied the cost transparency they need to make informed buying decisions, which could cause them to pay more for glasses, contacts and optometric services. And the bill would remove the rights of individual eye care professionals to decide how and if they want to contract with managed vision care plans to best serve their patients. Considering the proven, positive connection between vision benefits and healthier vision behavior, that is the last thing that eye patients, eye care professionals and employers in Colorado and across the country need.
I encourage you to celebrate Healthy Vision Month by ensuring you and your family have the vision care plan that best meets your needs, and to put that plan to use by visiting the eye care professional of your choice. I guarantee that you will see immediate benefits as a result. Now, see to it.
Julian Roberts is the Executive Director of the National Association of Vision Care Plans (NAVCP).