VSP, Costco Testing Vision Benefits in Costco Vision Centers

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By Cathy Ciccolella: Senior Contributing Editor

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—After years of emphasizing its exclusive use of private-practice eyecare practitioners for its provider network, VSP Global recently launched a “pilot” program with Costco Wholesale through which those employees of a number of employer groups (and current VSP clients) who are Costco warehouse club members can use their VSP vision benefits at the vision centers in Costco’s stores.

VM has learned that this test, which began early this month, allows those Costco members to get their eye exams and buy eyewear at Costco Optical locations, then have Costco submit their claims electronically to VSP. These eyewear benefits are reportedly available only to employees of the employer groups participating in the test who are also members of the warehouse club chain; by law in most areas, any consumer can get an eye exam at a Costco Optical location without being a Costco member.

Executives at Costco Optical declined to provide information to VM about this pilot program with VSP. Costco had previously accepted vision insurance through Spectera (now OptumHealth Vision) through an agreement that ended several years ago.

Asked for specific details about the Costco program or its implications about working with other possible retail providers going forward, Kate Renwick-Espinosa, chief marketing officer for VSP Global, told VM, “VSP’s mission of driving patients into private-practice doctors’ offices remains the same. To that end, we have and will continue to pilot a number of innovative approaches to the market. Recently, VSP has offered new practice management incentives, lens technology solutions and other optical and managed care programs.”

Added Renwick-Espinosa, “Although Costco is not part of the VSP network, our pilot and relationship with Costco is designed to help us win new contracts that ultimately will mean more patients in private practice. We will continue to look at programs that strengthen and grow the private-practice channel.”