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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 insurance, vision networks, vision discount plans

Discount networks benefit providers and consumers

Posted by Laura McMullen on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

dscount_plansDiscount plans offer pre-arranged discounts at participating providers and offices. These programs are not insurance. The Federal Trade Commission explains the difference between discount plans and health insurance this way:

  • If you buy a health insurance plan, it generally covers a broad range of services, and pays you or your health care provider for a portion of your medical bills.
  • With a medical discount plan, you generally pay a monthly fee to get discounts on specific services or products from a list of participating providers. Medical discount plans don’t pay your health care costs.

The Affordable Care Act changed the market for medical plans by requiring people to buy health insurance, although medical discount plans are still available. Dental and vision discount plans are widely available for purchase. Prescription discount plans are also available for those who qualify.

The companies that manage these plans have a variety of relationships with the providers in their networks. Here are some examples:

  • Insurance Carriers: Assurant, Careington, Aetna’s Vital Savings program. Insurance companies offer discount plans using their PPO networks as a way to generate more cash business for their providers and make popular non-covered services available to their members. LASIK and teeth whitening are examples of services that are often purchased using discount plans. Typically discount plans define eligible services by vertical industry, such as alternative medicine, dental, or vision.
  • Discount Program Organizations: AmeriPlan, Access to Healthcare Network, Patriot Health, Discount networks are purpose-built and sold in the open market. Providers like these plans because there is less paperwork, fewer rules, and payment is received when services are rendered. Members like them because they can choose any provider in the network, there are no deductibles or maximums, and there are no waiting periods. While these plans can’t be coordinated with Medicare or Medicaid, they can be used in conjunction with many commercial plans. These plans are usually organized by vertical.

Prescription Assistance Programs are included in the discount plan category, although they are a little different. They often have application processes that require approval from health care providers and are affected by income level and the cost of the medication needed. is a clearinghouse sponsored by the biopharmaceutical research companies that help connect qualifying patients with the program that’s best for them.

Do the providers in your network value discount plans as a way to diversify their income streams and attract new patients? How do your members feel about discount plans as a supplement to their insurance plans?

Tags: health insurance, Affordable Care Act, ACA, provider networks, insurance companies, dental discount plans, discount health plans, medical discount plans, vision discount plans, health care provider





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