As a benefits advisor or HR benefits administrator, you’re always looking for ways to improve employee health and wellness programs and the benefits experience. Why--because wellness programs are popular with employees. Nearly half of U.S. employees want their employers to do more for their health and financial well-being,  while 75% of employees expect brands to contribute to their well-being and quality of life. 
One of the reasons wellness programs are popular is their potential to lower costs for employers and employees.  So, have you thought of vision care as part of your wellness definition? Vision care and eye health can not only help employees stay healthy, but can help everyone involved save money.
Eye exams – an easy, painless wellness move
For the employee, getting an annual comprehensive eye exam is usually easy and painless--and often easy to schedule, too--with many eye doctors offering evening and weekend hours. The eye can also be a key to early detection, since the eye doctor gets a close look at blood vessels, arteries and the optic nerve, all of which offer peeks at early signs of certain chronic, high-risk health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol and more.
Diabetes is a big one you’re probably hearing a lot about, because it can really ramp up future medical expenditures and interfere with wellness if not detected, managed and treated. Did you know more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes?  These individuals have a higher risk of vision-related complications such as glaucoma, cataracts and blindness --and diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults.
Diabetes is not only taking its toll on the health and well-being of those who have it, and are managing it, it’s very costly for all involved. Case in point:
• Americans diagnosed with diabetes accounted for $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages, as found by the CDC in 2017. 
• Health care costs for Americans with diabetes are 2.3 times greater than those without diabetes.
Another condition that can be spotted during an eye exam that affects health and wellbeing among adults is high blood pressure, known as “the silent disease” because it often lacks symptoms. Some facts about high blood pressure add to the case for pursuing wellness via an eye exam’s potential early detection:
• High blood pressure affects 76.4 million adults in the U.S. yet more than 1 in 5 don’t know they have it. 
• For patients admitted to a hospital for acute ischemic stroke, hypertension—detectable in an eye exam--was a risk factor for 79.1%. 
If the eye doctor detects any changes in the retina’s blood vessels that indicate high blood pressure, the doctor can work with the vision member’s primary care doctor to ensure appropriate and timely treatment.
These are just a couple examples. The eye can speak pretty clearly, and with vision benefits, it makes it a lot easier for employees to listen.
EyeMed believes vision benefits should be used to help people stay healthy and well, and live a full life. And we help employers and their employees go beyond the basics of exams and eyeglasses to meet their many health and lifestyle needs. In other words, eye exams can be a part of the wellness programs employers and employees want.
Tailor your coverage with optional benefits
With healthcare costs rising, value that contributes to wellness is more important than ever before. By taking advantage of vision benefits and related plan enhancements, you can keep more money in your employees’ pockets and help them lead a healthier life.
Vision plans offer many options and enhancements that don’t increase the cost much, but that can promote wellness even more than standard eye exam and materials benefits. For example:
Diabetic Eye Care:
Our Diabetic Eye Care benefit covers additional services required by people with diabetes. Many of these procedures allow eye doctors to see the specific effects of high blood sugar on various parts of the eye, potentially reducing the risk of vision loss for people with diabetes. Here’s an article we shared recently on Diabetic Eye Care and the pathway to prevention.
Digital Retinal Imaging:
While traditional dilated eye exams are the gold standard in eye care, especially important to diabetic eye care, Retinal Imaging is an option to capture high-resolution images of the inside of the eye. The technology also lets providers compare retinal images over time so they can monitor conditions, which can enhance the eye care experience.
Kids need good vision to do well in school because as much as 80% of learning occurs through visual tasks such as reading, writing and using computers.  Our KidsEyes benefit enhancement addresses the special vision needs of kids by offering 2 exams and 2 pairs of corrective lenses per year, discounts on replacement glasses and additional coverage on some lens types.
Prescription Safety Eyewear:
More than 700,000 Americans injure their eyes each year at work, but 90% of these accidents are preventable with the right eye protection. [4,5] With safety eyewear that meets or exceeds ANSI standards, flexible allowances and convenient access to care, the Safety Eyewear Program powered by EyeMed can be added to a company’s funded vision benefit as an easy and affordable way to help employees stay safe on the job—and prevent costly injuries. Take a look at this article on what to look for in an Rx Safety eyewear program.
Vision discount programs help with wellness, too
Because members have many needs related to their vision, we also offer LASIK discounts for members who are not interested in glasses or contacts. Plus, hearing discounts are included with every vision benefits package that again, help ensure employees have head-to-toe wellness.
Remember, vision care can be an important part of a holistic wellness program approach. Is your organization embracing vision care for all it can offer in wellness?
Contact your EyeMed representative for more information on benefit enhancements available for your vision plan, or learn more about EyeMed benefits at Starthere.eyemed.com.
1 CDC. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017
2 Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012,” April 2013
3 Children's Health Fund. “Health Barriers to Learning: The Prevalence and Educational Consequences in Disadvantaged Children.”
4 Prevent Blindness, “Eye Safety at Work,” [www.preventblindness.org/eye-safety-work]
5 American Optometric Association, “Protecting Your Eyes at Work,” [www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision]
6 Mercer. “Our Top Six Action Items for Employers in 2018 – Part 2. [https://www.mercer.us/our-thinking/healthcare/our-top-six-action-items-for-employers-part-2.html]
7. Vision Monday. “What Consumers Expect of Brands When It Comes to Issues They Care About.” [www.visionmonday.com/business/research-and-stats/article/what-consumers-expect-of-brands-when-it-comes-to-issues-they-care-about/]
8 Harvard Business Review. “Meet the Wellness Programs That Save Companies Money.”
9 NIH MedlinePlus, “Leading Cause of Blindness,” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/summer08/articles/summer08pg14-15.html.
10 CDC - National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017 Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States
11 The Staggering Costs of Diabetes, American Diabetes Association; accessed 8.1.18 at http://www.diabetes.org/assets/pdfs/basics/cost-of-diabetes-2017.pdf
12 2017: CardiologyToday via Healio: Stroke risk factors increase despite drop in stroke mortality
13 “About High Blood Pressure,” American Heart Association, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/About-HIgh-Blood -Pressure_UCM_002050_Article.jsp
14 2 Lloyd-Jones D, Adams RJ, Brown TM, et al., Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2010 Update, A Report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee, Circulation, 2010, 121:e1-e170.
15 CDC - National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017 Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States