Insights From Our Editors

How Will the Recent Payroll Tax Increase Affect Consumer Optical Spending?

It seems like the recent payroll tax increases that occurred in January 2013 are slowing optical sales, along with the sales of other consumer goods, and weighing on consumers’ minds when making an optical purchase, according to The Vision Council VisionWatch Economic Situation Study: April 2013. One quarter of all the consumers surveyed said they cut spending on all general retail products and services across the board in response to the payroll tax increases. A smaller, but still significant, number of consumers (about 6.5 percent) said they slowed spending on optical products and services in response to the payroll tax increases.

What’s more, 8 percent of consumers reported that they will cut spending on future optical products and services due to the increase in payroll taxes. The good news is over one-third of all adults (36.2 percent–especially men, adults over the age of 45 and adults from higher income households) say the payroll tax increases have not affected their spending on retail or optical products and services at all.

In 2011 and 2012 employees paid 4.2 percent of their wages toward Social Security due to a temporary rate cut as part of an attempt to stimulate the economy. On January 1, 2013, the rate moved back to its original amount of 6.2 percent. The Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan research center, reports that the increase translates to about $700 per average worker annually.

At the beginning of 2013, many worried that this change would negatively impact consumer spending. Now, toward the end of the year, we do not have to guess, we know. Indeed, a significant number of people, especially in lower income households, have reduced or cut spending.

It is essential that we clearly understand the roles we have in our patients’ lives. We are their eyecare professionals. We are not our patient’s banker. It is inappropriate to make prescribing decisions based on our perceptions of what the patient can afford.

Your task this week is to have the following three conversations with the doctors and staff in your practice.

1) Always prescribe everything the patient needs to improve their quality of life, then, let the patient decide what they can or cannot afford.

2) Show patients how they can use programs like CareCredit to get the care they need. Keep in mind that the “banking” relationship is between CareCredit and the patient, not between your practice and the patient.

3) Don’t make exceptions for the office financial policy. For example, collect all co-pays and deductibles today. Do not allow accounts receivable to grow.

People buy what is important to them. Make sure you and your staff are helping patients understand the importance and value of proper vision care.

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