Vision is one of the most overlooked group benefits (pun intended!) and yet, one of the most affordable employee benefits that at least a good 50% of your population will probably enjoy having. Now, not everyone needs it, but those who do can get a ton of benefit from enrolling in a good vision program. This post will help makes sense of some of the high-level components that you’ll want to pay attention to that when you’re looking into adding a vision to your employee benefits repertoire.
A Quick Overview
One of the key aspects of any vision program is the presence of co-pays. Co-pays are typically tied to exams and materials in the form of lenses for glasses. There’s also typically a set dollar allowance for frames and contacts that you may or may not be able to exceed. Some plans have additional discounts applied if you exceed some of your limitations and some do not. This can vary.
Another key concern will be the frequencies which means how often you can get an exam, how often you can get new lenses and how often you can get new frames. You will see this written out like this – “12/12/12” or “12/12/24”. In the first example you can get exams, lenses and frames every 12 months. In the 2nd example, you can get an exam and new lenses every 12 months but frames every 24 months.
On most typical vision plans you’re going to have allowances for frames. These can commonly be anywhere from $130 to $150 to sometimes $175. That’s wholesale, so that’s going to be a pretty deep discount when you get to the retail side. The other thing that you’re going to have allowance for is your contact lenses and they work basically the same way.
You’re going to have a wholesale allowance for your contacts and it usually mirrors the frame allowance. Sometimes it might be a little bit different but $130, $150 maybe even $200 for contacts is a typical allowance before you start having to pay for additional costs. Be cognizant of the allowances in your benefits – that’s a BIG key item that you want to look for when examining any employee benefit option.
Glasses or Contacts?
The number one most common question we get more than any other when performing enrollment meetings for our clients is “can I use a vision program for glasses and contacts?” Unfortunately, on most vision plans force you to choose between contact lenses or lenses for your glasses. There are vendor exceptions related to this aspect, but they are few and far between. Remember most common vision plans make you get glasses or contacts but not both. In that circumstance we typically recommend you use your insurance on your glasses, because they’re always going to be more expensive, and then take the discount (if allowed) on your contacts.
Stay In Network
If you’re going to spend your hard earned money paying for a vision benefit program, or employers, if you’re putting your money on the line for your employees, they need to be willing to use a network provider. The good news? Most vision networks give you and your employees access to big nationwide chains and private practices, so there’s normally plenty of network providers to choose from. Sometimes you have someone who is just stuck with who they’ve been seeing and they don’t want to change providers.
In that instance, we’d question even purchasing a insurance policy simply because if you go out of network the reimbursements are so small that you really don’t get a lot of value. Every benefit is tied to being in-network – your discounts, your co-pays, everything you get, all your benefits are in-network. So, stay in network if you’re on a vision plan. If you’re going to go out of network we would question buying the darn thing! If you are out of network and still want to purchase the plan, take a good hard look at the OON benefits before signing up. It may not be worth it.
Do you wish you could lock in a rate on your employee benefits? Well, with vision benefits in the group space – you can! This is something that a lot of times you don’t have the luxury of doing when it comes to the health insurance or dental, but on vision plans you can usually get your rates locked in for two, three, sometimes even four years in the group environment.
If you get a good plan that you really like, lock it in. Then you don’t have to mess with changes in renewal every single year. This is also a great way to keep your employees happy for a long period of time without having to go through any type of change. So, remember if you have a plan you like ask for a two, three, or four-year rate guarantee. It’s gonna add a tiny bit to the premium but will be something you don’t ever have to fiddle with for a long, long time!
If your business contributes to the premium on the vision group plan, the overall cost goes down. Another option is to just offer vision to your employees but not pay any of the costs, known as the ‘voluntary’ approach. It might not make sense to pay for vision if you don’t have a high demand for it, so voluntary could be the right fit for your company to take.
You’re still going to get some really good benefits and price points, even if the program is offered up on a voluntary basis. In general, costs can be as inexpensive as $6 – $7 if the company is contributing towards the costs or on the voluntary side will typically run $10-$11 a month for an individual. Don’t forget to setup your Section 125 so you can deduct your vision premiums on a pre-tax basis so you and your employees get some add’l savings on payroll taxes!
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About Holloway Benefit Concepts
HBC was founded in early 2011 by Ryan Holloway. After serving over 8 years on active duty in the US Marine Corps, Ryan transitioned from being a full-time marine into an HR professional in early 2003. This began a journey and awoke a passion for helping companies who value their employees. After spending time working with a COBRA and FSA Administrator, an insurance company, and a large brokerage, Ryan realized that there were more unique and creative solutions for businesses than other companies were willing or able to realize. Seizing on his own entrepreneurial spirit, Ryan set out to found an independent agency designed to provide unique and original insurance solutions. To learn more about HBC, visit https://hollowaybenefitconcepts.com/