Employers Pay High Price for Vision Disorders

Uncorrected Vision Problems Contribute to Decreased Employee Performance

Vision disorders carry a hefty price tag for employers and result in a marked decrease in productivity costing businesses an estimated $8 billion annually, according to a new report released by the Vision Council of America (VCA). The Vision in Business report shows the staggering financial impact of vision problems on the economy, individual states and the workplace.

“Uncorrected vision problems are costing employers billions of dollars,” said Ed Greene, CEO of VCA. “Direct medical costs associated with vision disorders exceed similar medical expenditures for breast cancer, lung cancer and HIV, yet few Americans get regular eye exams or have vision coverage in their health plans.”

Both the private and public sectors of the economy are affected. VCA’s state-by-state analysis of the economic burden associated with vision disorders finds:

1. In 17 states the annual financial burden of vision disorders exceeds $1 billion, and in 15 additional states, that burden exceeds $500 million;

2. States representing the largest cost burden are: California ($5.5 billion), Florida ($3.9 billion), New York ($3.6 billion), Texas ($3.1 billion), Pennsylvania ($2.7 billion), Illinois ($2.2 billion), Ohio ($2.1 billion), Michigan ($1.8 billion), New Jersey ($1.6 billion) and North Carolina ($1.4 billion).

Vision in Business examines the prevalence and cost of vision problems as well as the role of preventive vision care in improving the productivity and efficiency of the American workplace. It also shows that job-related eye injuries, computer eyestrain and other vision problems are costly for employers and employees in a wide range of industries and occupations. Employees in professions ranging from engineers, construction workers, stockbrokers, software developers, to accountants and administrative assistants are among those most at risk for developing vision problems that affect their work performance.

Specific findings from the report include:

1. Vision problems are the second most prevalent health problem in the country, affecting more than 120 million people.

2. An estimated 11 million Americans have uncorrected vision problems, ranging from refractive errors (near- or far-sightedness) to sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration.

3. There are nearly 800,000 work-related eye injuries each year, 90 percent of which are preventable.

4. Nearly 90 percent of those who use a computer at least three hours a day suffer vision problems associated with computer related eye strain.

5. Employers gain as much as $7 for every $1 spent on vision coverage.

“I see patients everyday with vision problems that could impact their work performance if not corrected,” said ophthalmologist Elaine G. Hathaway, M.D. “In addition to refractive errors, eye injuries and computer eye strain, eye diseases such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can impair vision if not detected and treated early.”

VCA’s report also highlights recent research that finds the annual financial burden of major adult vision disorders exceeds $50 billion. Specifically, there is a $35.4 billion drain on the U.S. economy with an additional $15.9 billion borne by individuals with vision problems and their caregivers.

“The good news is that because of these high costs, healthy vision is increasingly being recognized as an important health issue in the workplace,” said Greene. In fact, the federal government has set a precedent by adding vision coverage to its new health plan that launched in November 2006.

“Regular eye exams are the best way to maintain employee vision health,” continued Greene. “Increased productivity and accuracy as well as higher job satisfaction are just a few of the payoffs one receives from healthy vision. Therefore, it is crucial that both employers and employees make healthy vision a priority through preventive vision care and offering effective vision benefits in the workplace.”

Tips for Employers:

1. Offer vision coverage as part of a health care package.

2. Ensure a safe working environment with mandatory eye protection as needed.

3. Encourage regular eye exams for employees.

Tips for Employees:

1. When working on a computer take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something at least 20 feet away.

2. Those who wear glasses should talk to their eyecare professional about anti-reflective lenses to reduce glare, eye strain and fatigue.

3. Wear protective eyewear that meets the approval of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which will be clearly marked “ANSI Z87.”

VCA urges employees to take an active part in maintaining healthy vision by scheduling regular eye exams. Permanent vision loss is not a normal part of aging, and many vision threatening conditions have no early warning signs. Eye exams can also detect other serious health problems including diabetes and glaucoma.

SOURCE: Vision Council of America

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