Progressive lenses, presbyopia and the value of vision benefits

Presbyopia and Progressives blog _ 1900 x 994
image of this article's author, Barry Shinske
Barry Shinske
Regional Vice-President

Amidst rising healthcare out-of-pocket spending, there’s good news for vision benefits members, including those reaching a “certain age” when they suddenly need help reading small print labels on packages or studying a menu under dim restaurant lighting. It’s called presbyopia--the gradual loss of your eyes' ability to focus on nearby objects––and progressive lenses may be the answer. 

Presbyopia is a natural part of aging, common after about age 40, as the eye lens becomes less flexible.3 By 2022, an estimated 3.7 million Americans will turn 40, based on 1982 birthrates.4 Our book of business at EyeMed shows 28% of EyeMed members wear progressive lenses.2 The growing demand is real, especially with the millennial generation starting to hit their 40s.

Trading up to eyeglasses with today’s excellent progressive lens technology is a good solution for millions who will need to start wearing them, but these more complex lenses can be expensive. 

The retail price of progressive lenses (not including the frame) if you don’t have vision benefits, can typically range from about $200 for standard progressive lenses to $400 or more for the latest premium progressive lens technology. It’s little wonder then that 77% of consumers said they’d be upset if the lenses they needed to improve an eye condition were not included in a vision benefit.1

Things to know about presbyopia and progressive lenses

Here’s a little background about progressive lenses and their cost.

  1. Progressives offer vision correction at multiple distances—close up, mid-range and distance, without telltale bi-focal or tri-focal lines.
  2. The advanced lens technology, customization and more complex manufacturing they require is why progressives typically cost more than single-vision lenses for correction at just 1 distance.
  3. Pricing is in several tiers. The “standard” tier includes the lowest cost, most basic progressive lenses, while the “premium” tiers feature increasingly higher end lenses—with a couple tiers in-between. Each tier can include dozens of different lenses made by various manufacturers.

Learn more about progressives in this explainer article “Progressive lenses: No-line multifocals for a younger you”.

The out-of-pocket cost for progressives can be confusing

Vision benefits companies have different member pricing approaches for premium lenses like progressives. Those offering progressives with fixed member pricing (like EyeMed) will be much easier for members to understand when it comes to their out-of-pocket costs. In contrast, benefits that use complex formularies for the member cost can be very confusing and frustrating to the member, especially when formularies can vary from provider to provider.

And because different presbyopia patients have different prescription and lifestyle needs, one may be happy with a standard progressive lens while anther may want a premium progressive incorporating the latest in lens manufacturing technology and other premium add-ons. Giving members plenty of choice, with the simple fixed out-of-pocket cost, can make a huge difference in member satisfaction with their vision benefit.

A progressive lens benefit that delivers an easy experience and choice is a great way for benefits brokers and employers to deliver value and stand apart from the competition. 

Of course, before making a decision, members should talk to their eye doctor to determine which progressive lenses are best for them. 

A simple, stylish vision benefit is a well-used one

Remember, confusion causes delay. The progressive lens benefits members will most likely take advantage of are those that provide value, selection and are easy to understand. 

If members have to decipher and calculate their cost, rather than look at a benefit summary with a simple fixed out-of-pocket pricing structure, they may not understand and get the full value of their benefits. The market of progressive lens wearers is likely to continue growing as millennials turn the corner of 40. So what can you do? 

I suggest you ask your vision benefits representative about the progressive lens usage for your employee population, or for your clients’ workforce makeup. You’ll also want to understand the options members have, their experience when considering progressives, and value they will get, thanks to their vision benefit.

You may also want to ask your EyeMed representative to demonstrate our “Know Before You Go” online cost estimator tool (available to almost all groups). Members can quickly get an idea of out-of-pocket cost on a range of progressive lenses and other eyewear options they’re considering—before they go see their eye care provider. And a little confidence and knowledge can go a long way.

Learn more about progressives, presbyopia and vision benefit value:


1: Consumer Healthcare Perceptions study, commissioned by Ipsos Marketing and EyeMed, 2018

2: EyeMed internal 2018 Book of Business data

3: “Presbyopia,”,; accessed Sept. 3, 2019

4: “Live Births and Birth Rates, By Year,” InfoPlease,; accessed Sept. 2, 2019