More firms turning to ODs for employee eye careApril 18, 2013
The past 12 months have seen growing evidence that employer-funded health benefits programs, traditionally resistant to optometrists on their medical provider panels, are now looking to optometric offices as a cost-effective alternative to emergency rooms and ophthalmology practices for quality primary eye care, according to the AOA Third Party Center. In the latest instance, one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most-innovative retail furniture chains began utilizing optometrists as medical eye care providers under its employee health benefits plan.
Warren, Mich.-based Art Van Furniture, Inc., the largest furniture retailer in the state of Michigan and one of the top 100 furniture retailers in the nation, announced in January that optometrists will be recognized as participating providers for medical eye care services available to more than 2,500 employees plus their dependents.
Art Van officials announced the change in the health plan coverage policies last year following meetings with representatives of the Michigan Optometric Association. AOA Third Party Center Executive Committee member Peter Agnone, O.D., believes company officials were particularly impressed by the prospect of making care for acute eye conditions readily available for employees at their more than 30 facilities spread across the state.
Dr. Agnone finds it particularly significant that, in additional to some of the nation’s largest corporations, more small-to-medium-sized companies are now using optometrists to provide eye care, as well as vision care, under their health plans.
“Art Van is now taking a similarly progressive approach to the providing of medical eye care under its employee health plan,” Dr. Agnone said. “With American business placing renewed emphasis on innovative ways to improve quality and efficiency, industry leaders from manufacturing to health care to retailing are turning to optometrists as a way of improving the quality and cost effectiveness of the eye care provided under their company health plans. Keeping workers out of the emergency rooms and allowing quicker access for acute eye conditions just makes sense to a company’s benefits decision-makers.”
Dr. Agnone believes health plan policy changes at respected industry leaders such as Art Van Furniture and SHS, both considered trend-setters in their fields, will lead other small- to medium-sized employer to begin covering comprehensive eye care services provided by optometrists under their employee health programs.
AOA members should contact progressive employers in their communities to discuss the advantages of eye care provided by optometrists, Dr. Agnone urged. In many cases, human resources departments and health plan benefit managers are receptive when informed that optometrists now provide medical eye care services under federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the health plans of major employers such as GM and Chrysler, as well as a growing roster of progressive small- to medium-sized employee health plans.
For more information about employee plans, contact the AOA Third Party Center at TPC@aoa.org.