‘Lack of Vision Insurance Impedes Eye Care Utilization and May Irrevocably Affect Vision,’ Study Says

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COLUMBIA, S.C.—Individuals with vision coverage are more likely to get needed check-ups and have better overall vision than those without coverage, according to a study by researchers from the University of South Carolina published this week in the Archives of Ophthalmology, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research was conducted by Sudha Xirasagar, MBBS, PhD, a professor in the Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Health Services Policy and Management, and Yi-Jhen Li, MHA, a doctoral student in the program, whose class project inspired the study.

They compared the rates of eyecare visits and vision impairment among working-age adults with and without vision insurance. The study included 27,152 respondents (between the ages of 40 and 64 years) to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey 2008 and a subsample of 3,158 respondents (11.6 percent) with glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and/or cataract. About 40 percent of the study population and the subsample with eye disease had no vision insurance. In both groups, respondents who reported having had an eye examination in the prior year, on average, had better vision.

“Lack of vision insurance impedes eyecare utilization, which, in turn, may irrevocably affect vision. Vision insurance for preventive eyecare should cease to be a separate insurance benefit and should be mandatory in all health plans,” the authors concluded.