News Briefs Archive

New Program to Support Children’s Eye Health by Reducing Exposure to Blue Light Amid COVID-19

Oct. 21, 2020

UnitedHealthcare has launched a vision program aimed to help children across the country reduce their exposure to blue light and support their overall eye health, addressing the unique eye-health challenges young people may face during COVID-19, according to an announcement posted to Business Wire by UnitedHealthcare.

The new enhancements for the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Eye Care Program are designed to help reduce the prevalence of digital eye strain among young people, a growing concern given people spend an average of 13 hours per day on digital devices.1

Enhancements to the program include donations totaling $100,000 to school districts to help meet the needs of their students, including for technology such as laptops with blue-light filtering properties that may help reduce the risk of digital eye strain amid the growing use of distance learning due to COVID-19.

The blue-light filtering technology may help provide protection from potentially harmful blue light, which is especially important given children’s still-developing eyes.2 The following school districts will each receive $20,000 donations to help meet the educational needs of their students: Dallas Independent School District (TX), DeSoto Parish School Board (LA), Green Bay Area Public Schools (WI) and Seminole County Public Schools (FL).

Additions to the program also include an enhanced eyecare benefit at no additional member cost sharing for standard and premium anti-reflective coating on eyewear for dependents under age 19 enrolled in eligible employer-sponsored plans, helping prevent potentially harmful reflective glare and reduce the risk of digital eye strain. The enhanced benefit is available to new UnitedHealthcare Vision customers with 100 to 1,000 eligible plan participants.*

The enhanced benefit builds on an existing program for UnitedHealthcare Vision plan participants that provides members up to age 13 a second covered eye exam and an additional pair of glasses if their vision prescription changes 0.5 diopter or greater; a comparable benefit design is available to UnitedHealthcare Vision plan participants who are pregnant or breastfeeding**.

UnitedHealthcare and Eyesafe, a provider of screen time and blue light solutions, hosted the Blue Light Summit 2020 on Oct. 15, bringing together world leaders from consumer electronics and health care to discuss the connection between blue light, screen time and eye health.

In advance of the Blue Light Summit, Eyesafe and UnitedHealthcare issued the “Screen Time 2020 Report,” which includes survey results from employers and vision care providers related to screen time and blue light exposure. The report revealed that 94 percent of eyecare providers surveyed are “very concerned” to “somewhat concerned” about the impact of digital device screen time on their patients’ eyes; among employers, more than 77 percent of respondents are “somewhat” to “very concerned” about the impact of digital device screen time on their employees’ eyes and health.3

“Digital eye strain due in part to increased screen time is becoming a more significant issue for many Americans, including professionals working remotely and students engaged in distance learning,” said John Ryan, general manager, UnitedHealthcare Vision. “We are taking a comprehensive approach to help our more than 20 million vision members and Americans nationwide to help reduce their exposure to blue light, enhancing our whole-person approach to health benefits and vision care.”

Digital eye strain, which is caused by prolonged use of computers, smartphones or tablets, may cause symptoms such as sore, tired, watery or dry eyes, headache, or sore neck, shoulder or back. More than 50 percent of computer users may experience digital eye strain.4

References
1 Eyesafe, 2020, https://eyesafe.com/covid-19-screen-time-spike-to-over-13-hours-per-day
2 The American Optometric Association, 2020, https://www.aoa.org/Documents/OptometryCares/Blue%20Light%20Impact%20in%20Children.pdf
3 Screen Time 2020 Report[remove italics and add quote marks?] survey of 157 eye care professionals and 500 employers, July 2020
4 BMJ Open Ophthalmology, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6020759/
*Enhanced benefit design available to new UnitedHealthcare vision customers with between 100 and 1,000 eligible plan participants and case effective dates between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021.
**Second covered eye exam and glasses is per plan or calendar year depending on the policy and requires applicable copays; second pair does not include contact lenses.

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