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Americans Want More from Eyecare But Fear Costs, Study Suggests

Versant Health released new survey results.

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Versant Health has released the results of its Vision Wellness Study, which explores Americans’ perceptions of eyecare and how it relates to their overall health and wellness.

The study found that most Americans will receive an eye exam in the next two years, if not sooner. Still, just 13% say they go to their eye doctor for both routine eyecare, such as glasses, and addressing potential symptoms of chronic conditions, according to a press release from Versant. This is despite the fact that an eye exam can non-invasively screen for upwards of 30 different chronic conditions, like diabetes and hypertension.

If they were aware of the connection between eyecare and early disease detection, most respondents (84%) would be more likely to make an eye doctor appointment, the study finds. The result points to a gap in understanding about the benefits of eye exams and the connection between vision wellness and holistic health.

“The fact is that vision care is preventative care, but our study found that two-thirds of people don’t realize that their eye doctors can detect chronic conditions,” said Kirk Rothrock, CEO at Versant Health. “It’s critical for people to understand how eye exams allow for early detection and treatment of potentially serious — and costly—health issues.”

Versant Health is a managed vision care company that serves more than 33 million members nationwide. Its plans include Davis Vision and Superior Vision.

Generational Differences in Approaches to Vision Wellness

Older Americans — those over the age of 60 — more often recognize the importance of eye exams and vision care for their overall health and wellness. For instance, 81% of them say they place a high value on eye doctors’ abilities to identify serious, non-eye diseases, as compared to 65% of people under 40.

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On the flip side, just 23% say a child under the age of 18 in their household has received care from an eye doctor, compared to 80% of adults — indicating that the value of healthy vision for children is not clear.

“As people age, they often become more aware of the effect their eyesight has on their quality of life and independence,” said Maynard McAlpin, chief operating officer at Versant Health. “But eye health also has a significant impact on children, for whom getting an eye exam can mean the difference in their school performance.”

Cost Concerns Creating False Care Barriers

Cost is the top healthcare concern for Americans, with 61% of people indicating identifying ways to decrease overall healthcare costs as a very important care topic.

However, false perceptions about the affordability of both receiving care and purchasing insurance are stopping people from getting routine care as often as they should, according to the study. More than one-third (39%) of people say cost is a reason why household members do not visit an eye doctor as often as they would like.

“We often hear concerns over the cost of vision care. In reality, eye exams are the most affordable, least invasive way of looking inside the body to a person’s holistic health,” said Elizabeth Klunk, senior vice president of medical management at Versant Health.

Other notable findings of the survey include:

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  • Less than 40% of people have a high-level of confidence in eye doctors’ abilities to identify health conditions such as diabetes, early stage hypertension, Graves’ disease, high cholesterol and other chronic illnesses.
  • Many people (32%) report having no vision care insurance at all to cover the costs of eyecare.
  • Just half (54%) of people with children under 18 years old in their household say those children have seen an eye doctor in the past two years, compared to 85% of people over 60.
  • Women are more likely (31%) than men (22%) to experience cost and insurance barriers to eye care.

The study, conducted in September 2019, included two surveys fielded by Market Measurement, a custom market research firm. The consumer survey comprised 500 responses from consumers 18 and older. The healthcare plan executive survey comprised 17 responses from healthcare plan executives across the U.S. These “opinion leaders” represent a diverse mix of plan types offered, including HMO (71%), PPO (71%), high deductible health plans (53%), Medicaid plans (53%), Medicare supplemental/advantage plans (47%), POS (47%), EPO (41%), open access POS (29%) and traditional indemnity (24%).

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