3150.0: Monday, November 13, 2000 - 3:00 PM

Abstract #15757

A New Vision for Optical Care: Insurance, Delivery and Access

Susan Burton, CAE, Vision Council of America, 1655 North Fort Myer Drive, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22202, 703-243-1508, ext. 222, sburton@visionsite.org and Richard O'Sullivan, The Forbes Group.

Abstract: The healthcare industry and public health officials can learn a lot from an examination of the vision care in the US. The optical market has been redefined by unprecedented erosion of insurance coverage. Employer sponsored insurance for vision care plunged from a peak of 46 percent of all workers in 1984 to fewer than 20 percent in 1997 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. How the optical industry and vision care providers responded (or failed to respond) to this dramatic shift in payers is an extremely valuable analysis for vision care providers today as well as a cautionary tale for the rest of healthcare. The emergence of an activist consumer reaching for his own wallet has greatly influenced the frequency of exams and increased disparities in the quality of care across the population. It set in motion changes among the vision care suppliers, some understandable, others unanticipated. The decline in insurance subsidies increased competition for scope of practice and flamed traditional rivalries among vision care providers. It also has created some surprising new alliances in care delivery. It is creating a new cadre of consumer-oriented providers and heightened the distinctions between vision care and optical product sales. Optical product manufacturers and suppliers, responded to the margin squeezing demands of the remaining insurers, became more cost conscious and less innovative. However, new delivery and treatment technologies have emerged to respond to these challenges. The emerging vision care market will be fundamentally different from the one we knew just a few years ago.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the session attendees will 1. Evaluate how dramatic changes in health insurance have influenced who will receive optometric and ophthalmological care, how, when and from whom. 2. Identify new participants in optometric care such as practice managers, chains and e-commerce retailers and, most importantly, an activist consumer who is spending his own money. 3. Analyze how insurance has influenced the scope of practice debates among optical care providers and how expensive new technologies and treatments, such as laser surgery, have been introduced in a period of declining insurance coverage. 4. Review both failed and successful strategies by optical care professionals and optical product suppliers in responding to these changes

Keywords: Health Care Restructuring, Insurance

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
Organization/institution whose products or services will be discussed: None
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The 128th Annual Meeting of APHA