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Expanding Your Vision Network With Online Retailers

Posted by Laura McMullen on Wed, Mar 28, 2018

glasses.jpgAs of October 2017, there were roughly 52,000 vision care locations that participate in at least one PPO network, in the NetMinder database. According to the Vision Council of America, 3 out of 4 Americans need glasses or contact lenses. If the population and the vision care locations were evenly spread out across the country, each location would serve about 4,800 people. Of course, they aren’t which makes the rise of online eyeglass and contact lens purveyors inevitable.

Buying glasses and contact lenses online has become simpler.

Wherever you decide to purchase your glasses and/or contact lenses, you need a prescription and an eye exam from an optometrist or ophthalmologist to get started. To buy online, you upload your prescription and other pertinent information and then move on to shopping.

When you shop online for glasses, like anything else, you can get a lot of information without going anywhere or talking to anyone. There are many more style, color, and other option choices than you’ll find in a brick-and-mortar store. And you can save money: Consumer Reports estimated savings of up to 40%. On the flip side, you could get the wrong prescription or glasses that don’t fit correctly since you might need to measure your own pupil distance. It might also be hard to return the glasses. And you might not be able to use your insurance. WebMD summarized the pros and cons of shopping for glasses online here.

Shopping for contact lenses has similar pros and cons although since disposable contact lenses have been widely available for a long time, mail order retailers, such as 1-800-contacts, have been part of the marketplace longer. Demand for lenses that change eye color and other fashionable products has grown the market further. There are more factors to consider when purchasing contact lenses in general that require the assistance of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. WebMD summarizes them here.

Can you use vision insurance when you shop for glasses or contact lenses online?

Sometimes. You can always use the funds in your FSA or HSA. Some accounts have debit cards to pay directly while other plans require reimbursement. Some online vision retailers are in-network with vision PPOs and will accept benefits while others are out-of-network and will provide a detailed receipt to support reimbursement.

We looked at some online retailers to learn about their policies. Here’s what we found:

  • A few retailers are In-network with some carriers. Members can access benefits online.
Warby Parker – glasses only
Glasses.com - glasses only
Contactsdirect - contact lenses only
  • Most online sources for glasses and contact lenses are out-of-network with all carriers.

Glasses

Felix + Iris
Eyebuydirect
Coastal - glasses and contact lenses
Classicspecs

Contact Lenses

1800contacts
Walgreens
Walmartcontacts.com

Vision insurance doesn’t get as much airtime as medical and dental insurance in general. However, a significant percentage of people with insurance have coverage. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control estimate 58% of people with private insurance have optional vision coverage and 44% of people with public insurance have optional vision coverage.

Online retailers have made inroads into the market. How do they fit with your vision network? How do you compete with other networks that include online retailers if yours doesn’t?

Tags: Vision insurance, vision networks, vision market, eyeglasses, optical retail, contact lenses

Superior Vision and Davis Vision to Merge

Posted by Laura McMullen on Thu, Oct 05, 2017

Centerbridge Partners, Superior Vision’s parent company, and HVHC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highmark and the parent company of Davis Vision, announced two transactions in August:

  • vision.jpgCenterbridge will purchase Davis Vision, HVHC’s managed vision care subsidiary. Davis Vision will be combined with Centerbridge’s existing managed vision care portfolio company, Superior Vision. Highmark will acquire a minority ownership interest in the combined Davis Vision-Superior Vision company.
  • Centerbridge will acquire a minority equity stake in Visionworks, HVHC’s optical retail subsidiary. Highmark will retain a controlling ownership interest in Visionworks.

In 2013, Superior Vision merged with Block Vision, covering more than 8.5 million members nationwide, with a provider network surpassing 55,000 access points. Vision Monday reports that Superior Vision currently has more than 11 million members. Davis Vision reports more than 22 million members and more than 68,000 points of access including optometrists, ophthalmologists, and retailers in private practice and retail settings. 

With so many mergers taking place in the healthcare industry overall. We decided to also look at the evolution of selling dental and vision insurance as a key part of the total benefits package employers use to attract and retain top talent. Download our whitepaper, Exploring How Dental and Vision Work Together to learn more about the favorable trends as well as the synergies that help the dental and vision insurance markets work together. 

How does this new vision combination change the landscape in your territory?

Tags: Vision, vision networks, Vision insurance, optical retail

Retail Chains In Vision Networks

Posted by Laura McMullen on Fri, Mar 10, 2017

I just saw an article about Walgreens piloting an optical shop at one of their stores in Chicago in Drug Store News. Walgreens already sells reading glasses and contact lenses already so why are they adding more services now? 

glasses_contacts.jpgThe vision care market is all about the materials. According to the Vision Council of America, three out of four Americans need glasses or contact lenses. The cost of glasses ranges widely depending on a consumer’s preferences and prescription. CostHelper Health reports a national average of $196 with lows starting at $8 for drugstore “cheaters” to highs of $600+ for designer frames with special lenses and coatings. All About Vision estimates that contact lenses cost “roughly $220 to $260 for a year's supply of lenses and another $150 to $200 on contact lens solutions, for a total annual cost of roughly $370 to $460 to wear contact lenses.”  

These costs make insurance attractive to consumers. The CDC estimates 58% of people with private insurance have optional vision coverage and 44% of people with public insurance have optional vision coverage. And vision networks are growing – here’s a summary of some trends that we’re seeing in NetMinder 

A unique component of vision networks is retail chains. In NetMinder, we define these chains as having at least 4 locations with or without an ophthalmologist or optometrist on site. When analyzing vision networks, we found that nearly 20% of locations in national vision networks are part of a national retail chain with the largest concentrations in the WalMart, Lenscrafters, and Vision Source brands.  

And this is where Walgreens comes in. Retail chains account for more than half of the revenue in the vision market even though they are only one-third of the locations. The brands are popular and heavily advertised and some competitors, WalMart and Target, area already in the market. Walgreens has more than 8,000 stores in the US and, as of August 2016, 76% of the US population lives within 5 miles of one.  

How does this potential new retail network affect your network? Is it a prospective partner? A competitor? 

Tags: vision market, optical retail, vision networks, Vision insurance, vision discount plans

Focusing on vision networks

Posted by Laura McMullen on Tue, Jul 07, 2015

A few years ago, we published a whitepaper called Clearing Up the Vision Market. Since then, the demand for vision networks has increased significantly with the number of people who take a vision plan when it’s offered growing from 78% in 2012 to 83% in 2013 in a 2014 SHRM study on vision care, so we decided to take another look.

As of March 2015, there are 48,000 optical locations in the top 10 national vision networks. They fall into two categories: independent eye care professionals (ECPs) and retail chains.

  • ECPs are defined by VisionWatch as having three or fewer locations with an ophthalmologist, optometrist, an optician, or an optical retailer on site. Nearly all ECPs are small businesses.  According to a whitepaper sponsored by Vision Source, ECPs are typically single location operations with less than $1.5 million in annual revenue and 12 or fewer employees. They have been in practice on average for 20 years.
  • Retail chains have 4 or more locations and may or may not have an ophthalmologist or an optometrist on site. The best-known brands in this category are widely available, such as LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Walmart, and Costco.

ECPs make up two-thirds of locations and 45% of market share while retail chains are the rest. A recent Bain and Company study shows the second most influential factor (after cost) in selecting a managed vision care plan is the retail network the plan provides. This helps explain why retail chains account for 55% of vision sales, with only one-third of the locations.

A Consolidating Market

In a recent Wall Street Journal blog post, Optometrists Catch FFL’s Eye, Thomas Puckett of merger and acquisition advisory firm HPC Puckett & Co., said “There aren’t many operators with over 100 locations, but there are quite a few independents with under 50 locations. It is logical for businesses to consolidate in a geographic area.”

Private equity firms are projecting that the number of retail outlets will drop by half over the next five years through consolidation. Investors are most interested in firms valued at $10 to $50 million and the expected growth from the Affordable Care Act and the aging US population makes the industry even more attractive.

Other Vision Network Trends

A recent review of the top 10 national vision networks in NetMinder found some interesting trends:

top_10_vision
  • Vision networks are growing. The number of unique providers in these networks grew about 8% annually from 2011 to 2015. Unique locations grew more slowly (3% annually) and access points grew more quickly (11% annually). This is most likely because retail chains, such as Pearl Vision or Lenscrafters, generate more revenue with fewer locations.
  • Some ECPs practice at many locations. On average, ECPs are listed in provider directories at 2.4 locations with a range of 1.6 to 3.2 locations. This could be the beginning of a trend toward overstated access in vision networks. We see about 25% access point inflation in dental PPO networks and have put a validation process in place using claim data to adjust counts. We are watching vision networks closely to see if a similar filter is needed. 
  • vision_networksECPs are joining more networks. In March 2011, the average ECP participated in 2.5 networks. By March 2015, that count was up to 3.7 networks. This shift is quite dramatic: five years ago 75% of eye care providers in these networks were in 1-3 networks and now only 53% are while 15% are in 7-10 networks.


Are you seeing these trends play out in your network? Are vision benefits in demand among your customers and their employees?

Tags: network providers, Affordable Care Act, optical retail, Vision insurance, healthcare benefits, Managed Care, employee benefits, vision networks, practicing locations, Vision

Are Independent Eye Care Professionals Getting Their Share Of Market Growth?

Posted by Aaron Groffman on Tue, Jun 04, 2013

Vision care products and services sold at U.S. optical retail locations increased 5.8% from $28,624 million in 2011 to $30,287 million in 2012, as estimated by The Vision Council’s VisionWatch report. The nation’s top 50 optical retailers, representing 1 out of 5 retail locations, account for close to 27% of the total vision market, according to Vision Monday’s 2013 Top 50 U.S. Optical Retailers report and ranking.

VisionMonday 20130524Smaller retail chains, defined by VisionWatch as those optical retailers with 4 or more locations, accounted for 29% of the market while representing only 13% of total locations, according to the most recent NetMinder update.  Independent optometrists (eye care professionals, or ECPs, with 1-3 locations) account for 2 of every 3 retail optical outlets and control the largest share of the market.  In spite of their significant presence, ECPs’ market share is only 45%.  Why are ECPs’ revenues per location lagging the chains?  One reason may be that consumers gravitate to ECPs for the smaller, exam portion of the market, while preferring retail chains for the faster growing, more lucrative materials (frames, lenses, and contacts) segment.  

What does this mean for ECPs going forward?  Will they become marginalized by the big chains like so many other industries?  Or will their high-touch approach preserve their market position?

Tags: Vision, consumer choice, Vision insurance, optical retail, sales

 

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