UnitedHealthcare to expand pediatric eye care benefit

UnitedHealthcare will offer a new pediatric eye care program with no additional premium.

The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Eye Care Program, will cover a second annual eye exam and a new pair of glasses for kids up to age 13, if their prescription changes 0.5 diopter or more. The new benefit will be available before the end of 2018 for individuals enrolled in employee-sponsored and individual UnitedHealthcare vision plans.

“This really goes from that classic once a year [eye exam], to let us recognize that within a year things can change, and make that second exam and that second pair of glasses really not be a cost to that consumer,” says John Ryan, general manager of UnitedHealthcare Vision.

The company also has coordinated with local non-profit organizations to provide grants for free eye exams and donated glasses to children in seven U.S. cities. The events are scheduled for August and September when many children return to school.

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Happy Latin American boy getting an eye exam at the optician on the phoropter - healthcare and medicine concepts

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of parents make the assumption that the eye exam in school or at the physician’s office for a back-to-school physical is the one that’s comprehensive, and it’s not,” Ryan says.

Ryan says that UnitedHealthcare is hoping to raise awareness for comprehensive eye exams during a time when children are traditionally returning to school. The company wants to normalize the conversation surrounding eye screenings and make it a regular conversation between parents and children.

“I would really encourage them to think a little bit about their ancillary benefits, in this case particularly vision,” he says. “Talk to their kids as school is starting, how are they seeing the board, how is their vision?”

The American Optometric Association recommends that children receive an annual comprehensive eye exam, starting at six months to a year of age. Children with vision issues typically face academic, social and athletic barriers, the association notes, and about 25% of kids will need corrective lenses by the time they enter school.

This is not the first time UnitedHealthcare has made changes to its vision care benefits. This year, Warby Parker began accepting UnitedHealthcare vision insurance for prescription glasses, marking the first time the designer eyewear company has accepted insurance.

More employees are becoming interested in eye care benefits. The Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 employee benefits survey of more than 3,000 HR professionals found that about 90% of respondents had a vision insurance benefit at their organization, up seven percentage points from 2014.

There also has been some innovation around making eye exams more accessible for employees. For example, Boston-based vision care provider 2020 On-site, offers on-the-spot eye exams to employees at companies including Yankee Candle, Microsoft and Wayfair. 2020 On-site’s service can be added as an HR benefit for about $5 per employee.

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