Is it time to update your vision care benefits plan?

As the average age of the Canadian workforce increases, thanks to the baby boomers, there is more pressure on vision care. Yet in spite of changes in vision care technology, and patients’ vision care needs, vision care benefits have not kept up with the changes and demands and have remained largely unchanged. Costs for eye services and products have increased, yet many Canadians forgo at least some services which would benefit their vision and eye health due to the costs.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Employees in office or home office contexts spend an enormous amount of time in front of computer screens. Without proper protection against “Computer Vision Syndrome”(CVS), employees can experience dry eyes, eye strain, headaches, and trouble focusing. Other symptoms include blurred vision, double vision, eye irritation, and neck or back pain. Research shows that between 50-90% of people who work at a computer screen have at least some of these symptoms. Optometrists suggest individuals should use a matte screen filter to reduce glare, sit two feet away from a computer screen to reduce eye strain, ensure the centre of the computer monitor is 4 to 8 inches lower than eye level, and take frequent “eye breaks” using the 20-20-20 rule. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes and look at something at least 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Blink often to keep your eyes moist. Children now spend more time in front of screens, tablets, and smartphones, and they can also begin to experience CVS and should have their eyes checked annually.

Meanwhile, optometric care has evolved with new technological advances such as digital fundus cameras, optical coherence tomography, and retinal cameras which have raised the standard of care for conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eye disease.

What must change?

A 2018 trends survey by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found about 74 per cent of private vision care expenditures are incurred by Canadians out of pocket, compared to 37 per cent for drugs and 44 per cent for dental.

A 2020 survey by the Canadian Association of Optometrists found that 16 per cent of plan members were dissatisfied or very unsatisfied with their vision care benefits. Seventy-one per cent said that cost was a factor for them causing them to avoid accessing services that would help their vision and eye health. For those with vision care benefits, 24 per cent reported they were not getting needed services due to the cost.

For many benefits plan managers, a review of their vision care benefits is overdue. An analysis of recommendations put forward in “Best Practices Guide to Vision Benefits” by the Canadian Association of Optometrists provides suggestions for how to deliver better value to sponsors and members.

At Health Risk Services, we help benefits managers review and revise their employee benefits plans to keep up with the changing needs and costs in health care. We would like you to know more about how Health Risk Services can assist you with a 2021 plan to address changes to vision care benefits, so please schedule a Complimentary Consultation with us.

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To schedule your Complimentary Consultation with Health Risk Services, please call 403-236-9430 OR email:

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