Blind World Magazine

Survey Reveals Disparities in Americans' Perceptions of Vision Health.

June 06, 2005.
PR Newswire.

More than half of Americans have vision problems or impairments of some sort and nearly 40 percent fear they can't afford adequate treatment, according to a recent survey commissioned by Aflac, the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance in the United States. Although three-fourths of those surveyed had received eye exams within the past two years and 63 percent have spent money on vision care within the past year, 40 percent admit to avoiding or postponing vision care because of cost. The survey randomly polled 1,006 Americans 18 years of age and older in May 2005.

The National Eye Institute (NEI) published research findings on its Web site confirming the fact that more than 11 million people in the U.S. have some sort of visual impairment that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses. NEI findings also reveal that as Americans age, treatment for eye disorders and blindness is estimated to cost the country more than $16 billion annually.

"As the debate on health care continues, it is increasingly important for consumers and employers to understand the coverage options available to them," said Aflac Chairman and CEO Daniel P. Amos. "Employers and employees alike are looking to new alternatives to deal with healthcare costs whether related to eye care wellness or other types of medical needs."

The Aflac commissioned survey indicates Americans are more likely to have major medical, prescription drugs and dental above vision coverage. Among those adults surveyed, fewer than half (49 percent) have vision insurance coverage, while 84 percent have health insurance, 70 percent have prescription drug coverage and 59 percent have dental insurance.

Types of vision care services Aflac Survey respondents believe their vision plans cover include:

- 93 percent said they were covered for eye exams

- 86 percent said they were covered for eyeglasses

- 64 percent said they were covered for treatment of eye disorders or diseases

- 25 percent said their benefits covered Lasik eye surgery

- 32 percent said their benefits covered loss of sight

Respondents were also asked about the effect cost had on their willingness or ability to seek eye health services:

- 20 percent said they avoid getting eye surgery because of cost

- 12 percent said they avoid getting a glaucoma test because of cost

The American Optometric Association claims that a recent survey showed that about 66 percent of employees would trade at least one vacation day for vision coverage. And the number of employers making vision benefits available has increased steadily over the past few years. However, traditional vision plans tend to cover the basics such as eye exams in the form of discounts.

Aflac's "Vision Now" plan will cover the same basic benefits that existing vision insurance offerings include but will also extend those benefits to include serious eye health conditions that require surgery or other forms of treatment, as well as offering benefits for the loss of sight. Aflac's Vision Now offering will be available only through employers and will be available beginning this summer.

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