Managed Vision Care Influencing Eyewear Purchases

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This article came to us via the Vision Voice- via Vision Watch . VisionWatch is a joint program between Jobson Medical Information and The Vision Council of America, who measure consumer trends and attitudes, market size and purchases as is relates to the optical industry.

Managed Care Care Influencing Eyewear Purchases

‘While many industries are seeing a tremendous slow down in purchasing activity at the retail level as a result of the weak US economy, Rx eyeglass purchases have been holding steady and only seeing minimal declines. According to VisionWatch, the large-scale consumer research study by Jobson Optical Research and The Vision Council, there were 67.6 million pairs of eyeglasses sold in the US at the retail level in 2008, a decline of 0.9% when compared to calendar year 2007 unit sales. Rx lens sales were actually up slightly in 2008 when compared to 2007 (+1.1% to 75.2 million pairs). Most of the growth in eyeglass purchases that occurred during the year 2008 (upwards of 90%) occurred among American adult consumers that purchased eyeglasses with the assistance of managed vision care (MVC). In  fact, the number of frames purchased with MVC assistance rose by 15% during 2008 as consumers looked to take advantage of MVC benefits and get the most out of their disposable incomes.

There are currently around 112 million American adults covered by some type of MVC program. People from higher income households are more likely to possess some type of MVC plan, as are Americans over the age of 45, Americans that use some form of vision correction and Americans with full-time jobs.

A majority of eyeglass wearers who have MVC coverage admit that their vision insurance has influenced, and will continue to influence, their Rx eyeglass purchases. In particular, one-half of recent eyeglass buyers with MVC coverage claimed that their MVC benefits influenced both the location of their most recent eyeglass purchase (the specific retailer or ECP), as well as the timing of that specific purchase. This is one of the main reasons why independent ECPs, who rely more on patients with MVC coverage, are performing better than the conventional chains and mass merchants with regard to eyeglass sales in the slumping economy.

About one out of every seven recent eyeglass buyers with MVC coverage claimed they made an eyeglass purchase before their MVC benefits or FSA/MSA benefits expired for the year. About one out of every ten eyeglass buyers with MVC coverage made their eyeglass purchase sooner than they had anticipated because they were afraid of possibly losing their jobs (and their MVC benefits). Many recent eyeglass buyers with MVC coverage (32%) admitted that without MVC coverage they probably would not have been able to purchase their most recent pair of eyeglasses at all. Another significant portion (28%) claimed that their MVC coverage allowed them to purchase a higher-quality pair of glasses than they would have purchased had they not had any MVC coverage.

In addition to influencing recent eyeglass purchasing activity, MVC coverage will continue to sway consumers and their future eyeglass purchases as well. For 54% of all consumers with MVC coverage planning to buy eyeglasses in the next 6 months, the specific location and timing of that eyeglass purchase will be influenced by their MVC benefits and coverage. Again, many future buyers with MVC coverage (almost 20%) want to use their MVC and FSA/MSA benefits to make an eyeglass purchase before those benefits expire. About 13% of those likely to buy eyeglasses in the 6 months with MVC coverage will make that purchase because they fear a change in their employment situation and want to use their benefits before they possibly lose them. Also, about one-third MVC customers in the market for Rx eyeglasses are planning to get the most out of their benefits and purchase a high-quality pair of eyeglasses, something they would not be able to do without MVC coverage.

For more information about the data in this article (or to receive a copy of the Vision Council March 2009

Consumer Perceptions Study), please contact Steve Kodey at skodey@thevisioncouncil.org.

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