NASHO Takes Nashville – NASHO/NAVCP Host Joint Specialty Health Summit in ‘Music City’

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(L-R) NAVCP’s executive director Julian Roberts with NAVCP chair Aspasia Shappet and NASHO chair Andrew Alcorn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Almost 200 specialty health and managed vision care executives, optical retailers and other vision industry leaders gathered at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel here earlier this week to discuss the impact of health care reform among other topics during the third annual Specialty Health Summit held jointly by the National Association of Vision Care Plans (NAVCP) and the National Association of Specialty Health Organizations (NASHO).

Held May 5 to 7 in “Music City,” the three-day event was organized under the musically related theme “Specialty Health: Creating Harmony in a Discordant Market.” With both specialty health care and managed vision care executives at the event, attendees and speakers grappled with topics ranging from the pros and cons of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, disruptive technologies related to new refraction techniques and online retailing, and other trends affecting specialty health in general and managed vision care specifically.

In addition to a full schedule of presentations, the event launched with “Southern Nights: An Evening with Nashville’s Rising Stars,” an opening reception featuring country music singer/songwriters entertaining attendees in an intimate setting.

NAVCP chair Aspasia Shappet of MESVision launched the next day’s educational sessions by thanking attendees for their passion. She summed up the event’s overarching theme by also thanking attendees for “continuing to run stable and secure businesses in a time of turmoil.”

Among the highlights were a presentation by U.S. Congressman Diane Black (R) of the Sixth District of Tennessee on “After Obamacare—What’s Next for the Politics and Policy of Healthcare” and a keynote address on “The Emerging Exchange Marketplace—A Post-Op Evaluation of the Affordable Care Act Launch” by Manatt Health Solutions’ Joel Ario. Acknowledging the impact public exchanges have already had on the industry, Ario was not the only speaker to also express that “private exchanges will be a key player.”

A vision-specific track on Wednesday for NAVCP members included Jobson Optical Group’s Marge Axelrad on “Recalculating & Repositioning—A U.S. Market Overview and Trend Perspective,” in which she said that our business is again “in the middle of consolidation as private equity is looking around to see opportunities and operating efficiencies in our market.”

National Vision’s Bob Stein and MESVision’s Ric Piecuch on “A New Deal—What Enhancing Transaction Standards Can Mean for the Managed Vision Care Industry” described the goals of a new initiative in which the NAVCP Technology Committee is in the process of updating and standardizing transaction standards that were originally created in 1979, a project that would create uniformity via voluntary standard to be used among various vision care plan companies.

As the day and the Summit winded down, Wednesday afternoon’s vision sessions heated up, consisting of discussions about disruptive technologies related to refractions and online optical retailing. In the session on “iHealth—Consumer Self-Service, Personal Control and Doctor-Patient Teamwork for Health and Wellness,” Opternative’s Aaron Dallek discussed his company’s online refraction technology followed by Digital Vision Systems’ Keith Thompson, MD, presenting his company’s Vision Optimizer refraction and measurement system. The online refraction technology met with much audience pushback about how it would be implemented and what impact it would have on comprehensive eye exams and the role of optometrists.

The day and event concluded with “The Evolving Omni-Channel Marketplace for Vision Care Products” in which Ditto.com’s Kate Doerksen demonstrated her company’s virtual try-on technology. Industry expert and consultant Wally Lovejoy also detailed a proposed process for certifying or verifying prescriptions for eyeglasses sold online. That would be a wider optical industry initiative to potentially take place soon and involve the participation of a wide range of industry retail, professional and dispensing groups and companies.

NAVCP’s 2014/2015 officers are chair Aspasia Shappet of MESVision, secretary/treasurer Jim McGrann of VSP Vision Care, public policy committee chair Erich Sternberg of AlwaysCare Benefits, marketing committee chair Carol Misso of Superior Vision Services, membership chair Vincent Hayes of Nationwide Vision and technology committee chair Robert Stein of National Vision. NAVCP’s 2014/2015 directors are Steve Brewer of PFO Global, Celina Burns of Davis Vision, David Cassell of SVS Vision, Karen Gustin of Ameritas Life Insurance Corp., Alan Hirschberg of Metlife, Philip Kaufman of UnitedHealthcare, David Lavely, OD, of OptiCare Managed Vision, Daniel Levy, OD, CPHM, of Avesis, Myles Lewis of General Vision Services, Stephanie Lucas of Block Vision, Lukas Ruecker of EyeMed Vision Care, Jeff Spahr of WellPoint Vision, and Debra Wharton of Aetna. NASHO chair Andy Alcorn of Block Vision, which recently merged with Superior Vision Services, will be succeeded by chair elect R. Lloyd Friesen , DC, of American Specialty Health.

The Specialty Health Summit was supported by platinum sponsors VSP Global and Zeiss Vision; preferred sponsors Essilor, PFO Global, Transitions Optical and Palladian Health; and supporting sponsors Beltone, HealthScape Advisors, QualSight Lasik and Wonderbox Technologies.

Next year’s Specialty Health Summit is scheduled for May 4 to 6 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas.