Today’s aging workforce isn’t fully taking advantage of its vision benefits, and is therefore missing out on a critical preventive care opportunity and leaving itself at higher risk for age-related vision problems, eye diseases and chronic conditions that affect eye health and compromise productivity. This is according to a new study by Transitions Optical, Inc.
Baby boomers are only slightly more likely than younger employees to enroll in their vision benefit (79% vs. 75%). Similarly, 34% of baby boomers and 23% of those ages 65+ who enroll do not use their benefit to receive a comprehensive eye exam. The survey was conducted among 2,011 full-time, adult U.S. employees whose employers offer vision benefits.
“A quality vision benefit is important for everyone, but especially for employees ages 45 and older, who are more likely to experience vision problems that hurt job performance. This age group also has a higher risk for developing costly eye diseases and whole body conditions
such as diabetes and hypertension, all of which can be detected through comprehensive eye care,” says Pat Huot, director of managed vision care at Transitions Optical. “With ongoing medical cost concerns among employers and employees alike, our survey findings have flagged a serious lost opportunity to help lower potential health care expenditures and boost productivity.”
Awareness of vision and aging
Nearly all employees (94%) agreed that they felt their vision benefit would become more important to them as they grew older. However, while the survey confirmed that employees’ actual experiences with many vision-related issues do increase with age, even older employees had limited awareness of these changes, many of which can be addressed with the right eyewear. For example, half of baby boomers were unaware that they may have more trouble seeing far away or seeing well in dim lighting as they grow older. Similarly, three in 10 were unaware of the increased risk for eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Opportunities to increase education
The research findings suggest that employees, including at-risk, older employees, need further education from their employers on the value of the vision benefit, and identified several missed opportunities to provide this education. Thirty percent of employees felt that their employers do not take appropriate steps to make sure employees understand their vision benefit. In the latest survey, only 18% of employees reported that their employers do not communicate to them about their vision benefit, a small improvement from 25% in the 2011 survey. However, nearly 60% of employers provide only basic vision plan information during the open enrollment period. Just 13% of employees said their employers also include information on the importance of eye health, and only 11% do so regularly throughout the year, a slight increase over the previous survey finding.
The survey also delved deeper into employers’ vision benefit education methods, and revealed that only 58% offer clear written materials about the costs and benefits of their vision plan, and only 34% include a presentation on what the plan covers. Other employee education methods – such as one-on-one employee benefit discussions, bringing in a benefits broker or health professional, or educating on vision benefits during a time other than open enrollment (such as during a health fair) – were also largely underused.
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