Eye care: A visible contribution to a more secure retirement

VSP Real World Solution Series

American workers are not saving enough for retirement, and experts say this puts many on a path to a meager future in their senior years. Thankfully, there is much that employers can do to help their employees create better prospects for retirement.

Since healthcare can constitute up to a third of all expenses in retirement, preventive screenings and early attention to health issues can go a long way in controlling costs after one stops working.

Accordingly, employers should view a comprehensive vision plan not only as a tool to address current vision needs, but also as a contribution to retirement. This contribution can produce a hefty return on investment through higher quality of life and reduced costs.

Employees aren't saving enough

According to the Economic Policy Institute, most American families have little or no retirement savings. To make matters worse, an estimated 63 percent of workers don't even realize they are in trouble and have little insight into how much they need or how health can impact their savings.

In March 2017, Merrill Lynch's Finances in Retirement Survey found that the average cost of a full retirement had risen to $738,400. That threshold is a tall order even for the most diligent of savers. Yet the National Institute on Retirement Security reports that the average near-retirement household has only $12,000 in retirement assets.

Unexpected health issues can constitute a third of retirement expenses

No matter how much a retiree has saved, health issues can throw a big curve ball after one stops working.

Merrill Lynch cited health as the biggest wild card, consuming an average of $260,000, or roughly a third, of retirement savings. Many retirement planning tools assume that one will have traditional Medicare coverage and accordingly include the cost of premiums. Yet, for many people, this number is much greater and does not include long-term care expenses. While only 37 percent of people think they will need long-term care at some point in their life, research indicates that 70 percent ultimately do.

Unexpected health problems earlier in life can also force people into an early retirement and reduce earning years and savings potential. Positive changes to one's health can have an indirect, yet financially significant, impact on one's retirement by improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs later in life.

Routine visits and comprehensive eye exams are an indirect retirement contribution

Preventive health screenings can offer robust returns in future health and should be seen as both an investment in security and a contribution to retirement. Unfortunately, patients who put off routine healthcare visits and preventive tests are unlikely to discover health ailments until later stages of illness. That mistake can lead to poorer health outcomes and ultimately higher out-of-pocket expenses.

During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist can identify early signs of many health conditions, so a vision plan can serve as a primary access point into the healthcare system. An eye exam is recommended annually and includes a refractive exam, dilation and, if necessary, recommendations for prescription glasses or contact lenses.

An eye doctor will also provide important input about a patient’s overall health. Diagnostic tools like retinal imaging can help doctors identify numerous health conditions, such as diabetes, age-related macular degeneration, choroidal melanoma, diabetic retinopathy and hypertension. In a study conducted in partnership with Human Capital Management Services (HCMS), VSP network eye doctors were the first healthcare providers to detect signs of diabetes (34% of the time), hypertension (39% of the time) and high cholesterol (62% of the time). Early detection is also critical in glaucoma and retinal detachment, which can lead to permanent vision loss.

Despite our best attempts, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to estimate future costs of healthcare. And it’s even more challenging to budget for a health condition you don’t know about. Routine eye exams gives employees an entry point into better health care and helps them better plan for the future, including retirement.

Choose a great vision plan for your team – now and post retirement

A comprehensive vision plan with high engagement and high enrollment can help reduce future health risks. Whether through a group plan for retirees or selecting their own individual plan, VSP® Vision Care is a great choice for retirees to enjoy a healthy future. Employers can also offer a voluntary retiree plan that is typically a better value than COBRA.

To learn more about VSP's comprehensive group vision plans, visit getvsp.com/breakthroughs, or refer retirees to vspdirect.com to enroll directly in one of VSP’s individual plans.

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