ST. LOUIS, MO -- (Marketwire) -- 12/14/12 -- Americans would benefit from having all health plans cover vision exams as part of their standard benefit according to a new study in the Archives of Ophthalmology, published December 10, 2012. This study agrees with previous work and policy recommendations from the American Optometric Association (AOA) that show the medical and financial benefits of ensuring that working-age adults have access to a quality vision benefit through their health plan.
"We strongly agree and support the findings of this momentous study," stated Dr. Stephen Montaquila, Chair of AOA's Third Party Center Executive Committee. "It aligns with research we have done on this issue and reinforces the importance of eye health and vision care in the overall health care of our patients. It clearly demonstrates that vision should be a covered benefit in all medical plans." He further stated, "Optional, supplemental vision coverage that has predominated over the last 40 years is simply no longer good enough. Eye health and vision are much too important to remain just an option -- it is essential for improving the health of our citizens. Eye health and vision care are essential health benefits that should be fully integrated with the other benefits covered by all health plans."
Researchers found that more than 40 percent of people in their study lacked vision insurance. Among individuals in the study who had one of the three leading causes of vision loss in the US (glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts), the same percentage (40%) did not have vision insurance. Yet 90 percent of the entire study group had health insurance. This demonstrates a serious gap in vision insurance coverage, which was shown to influence utilization rates for individuals receiving eye exams.
The referenced study bases its conclusions on 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data collected from U.S. States and Territories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Services (www.cdc.gov/brfss). It presents two major conclusions: 1) Lack of vision insurance impedes eye care utilization, which, in turn, may irrevocably affect vision; and 2) Vision insurance for preventive eye care should cease to be a separate insurance benefit and should be mandatory in all health plans. The study's primary findings were that individuals with vision insurance coverage were more likely to receive periodic eye examinations than individuals with no such coverage; and individuals who received eye examinations during the previous year reported better eyesight. The AOA has long maintained that annual eye examinations and appropriate, continuous eye health and vision insurance coverage are critical for preserving eye health and optimizing eyesight and that good vision and healthy eyes are essential to overall health status.
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