While many preventive services are now considered essential and available to insured Californians, there’s a glaring omission under Covered California. Eye exams are a proven preventive health measure that can help improve health outcomes and control health care costs, yet adults who select coverage through the state’s health care exchange don’t currently have access to vision care plans. That’s especially surprising for parents who purchase through Covered California since vision care is included as an essential health benefit for children.
For many adults, an eye doctor is the only health care professional they see each year. Because of this, in addition to protecting your vision and eye health, eye doctors are often the first to spot signs of chronic health conditions, including diabetes 34% of the time, high blood pressure 39% of the time and high cholesterol 62% of the time.
A recent study conducted by HCMS Group showed that patients whose conditions were detected through an eye exam visited the emergency room less frequently, were less likely to be admitted to a hospital for their condition and required fewer medications to control their condition, improving their well-being and reducing their health care costs.
Further, since productivity losses related to health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, early detection also is a vital economic incentive.
It’s clear that a solution is needed to close this vision care coverage gap for adults.
Assembly Bill 1877, proposed by Assembly member Ken Cooley, would create a web portal linking Covered California enrollees to vision care plan options. Colorado and Hawaii already have made a link to this coverage available on their exchanges, and Californians deserve the same access to critically needed eye care.
There would be no cost to state taxpayers for the program, and it would give hundreds of thousands of California adults the opportunity to purchase an affordable vision plan. In fact, AB 1877 would likely save the state money through earlier detection of chronic health problems.
It is a worthy solution that deserves attention.