Background: Vision problems due to refractive error are common (57%) and readily correctable by prescription eyewear; however, the cost is significant.
Hypothesis: Access to eyeglass insurance varies by age. Individuals without coverage are less likely to consult an eye care provider, leading to increased prevalence of treatable visual impairment (VI).
Research Questions: The analysis aims to: (1) determine the frequency and source of eyeglass insurance coverage and the influence of age; and (2) examine associations between eyeglass insurance coverage, utilization of eye care providers, and prevalence of VI.
Methods: Data from Ontario respondents aged 18+ (n=42,553) from the 2013/14 Canadian Community Health Survey was analyzed.
Results: Prescription eyewear was covered in part or in full for 62% of Ontarians. Insurance coverage was highest in people aged 40-64 (71%) and lowest in those aged 75+ (35%). Of those covered by insurance, 84% were sponsored by employers, 10% by government, and 7% by private purchase. For Ontarians aged 65-74 and 75+, government-sponsored coverage increased to 15% and 25%, and private-purchased coverage increased to 22% and 18%.
For those without eyeglass coverage, the utilization of eye care providers was nearly half (25%) of those with coverage (46%). Ontarians without eyeglass coverage had increased prevalence of VI (1.5%) vs. those with coverage (0.9%).
Conclusions: Access to eyeglass insurance varies by age. The largest source of insurance was employer-sponsored; government-sponsored or private-purchased insurance increased in those aged 65+. Lack of insurance was associated with decreased utilization of eye care providers and increased prevalence of VI.
Acknowledgments: This research was supported by funds to the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Statistics Canada. Although the research and analysis are based on data from Statistics Canada, the opinions expressed do not represent the views of Statistics Canada or the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN).