Three years after launching the state’s health-benefit exchange, Covered California wants to help consumers sign up for vision coverage as well.
The agency issued a request for proposals on Nov. 17 from vision plans interested in offering coverage to exchange customers. Once plans are selected, Covered California will provide links on its site to the chosen plans. Vision care is not currently considered an essential health benefit under the Affordable Care Act, but the links will help consumers connect with and get coverage from vision plans.
It’s a long time coming. Vision plans have lobbied hard for this since the early days of the program. Former VSP Global CEO Rob Lynch suggested he might move the company headquarters out of state after the board at Covered California voted in 2012 to bar stand-alone vision plans from competing in the program in the first year. The exchange later changed its policy, but federal rules complicated the offering. Legislation to create a fix failed.
Under the new approach, Covered California will simply host a link to vision-plan websites, not formally offer coverage itself.
Covered California expects to announce selected plans the week of Dec. 21. The estimated term of the contracts is Jan. 15 through Dec. 31, 2016. Consumers will be able to use the links year-round, not just during open enrollment, exchange spokesman Roy Kennedy said.
“Providing access to vision care coverage through Covered California is a step in the right direction to help close the gap in access to eye care and ensure that all Californians receive the best preventive health care possible,” said new VSP Global president and CEO Jim McGrann said in a news release.
Kirk Rothrock, CEO at Superior Vision, another vision plan with a local presence, said the company has worked with others in the industry to have vision insurance included in Covered California. He applauded the move as a “step forward in providing an affordable benefit that will improve qualify of life for Covered California consumers.”