The frequency and source of prescription eyewear insurance coverage in Ontario: A repeated population-based cross-sectional study using survey data.
Authors: Nichani P, Trope GE, Buys YM, Markowitz SN, El-Defrawy S, Ngo G, Markowitz M, and Jin YP
Background : Insurance coverage may reduce cost barriers to obtain vision correction. Our aim was to determine the frequency and source of prescription eyewear insurance to understand how Canadians finance optical correction. Methods: We conducted a repeated population-based cross-sectional study using 2003, 2005 and 2013-2014 Canadian Community Health Survey data from respondents aged 12 years or older from Ontario, Canada. In this group, the cost of prescription eyewear is not covered by the government unless one is registered with a social assistance program or belongs to a specific population. We determined the frequency and source of insurance coverage for prescription eyewear in proportions. We used survey weights provided by Statistics Canada in all analyses to account for sample selection, a complex survey, and adjustments for seasonal effect, poststratification, nonresponse and calibration. We compared unadjusted proportions and adjusted prevalence ratios (PRs) of having insurance. Results : Insurance covered all or part of the costs of prescription eyewear for 62% of Ontarians in all 3 survey years. Of those insured, 84.1%-86.0% had employer-sponsored coverage, 9.0%-10.3% had government-sponsored coverage, and 5.7%-6.8% had private plans. Employer-sponsored coverage remained constant for those in households with postsecondary graduation but decreased significantly for those in households with less than secondary school graduation, from 67.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] 63.2%-70.8%) (n = 175 000) in 2005 to 54.6% (95% CI 50.1%-59.2%) (n = 123 500) in 2013-2014. Government-sponsored coverage increased significantly for those in households with less than secondary school graduation, from 29.2% (95% CI 25.5%-32.9%) (n = 76 400) in 2005 to 41.7% (95% CI 37.2%-46.1%) (n = 93 900) in 2013-2014. In 2013-2014, Ontarians in households with less than secondary school graduation were less likely than those with secondary school graduation to report employer-sponsored coverage (adjusted PR 0.79, 95% CI 0.75-0.84) but were more likely to have government-sponsored coverage (adjusted PR 1.27, 95% CI 1.06-1.53). Interpretation : Sixty-two percent of Ontarians had prescription eyewear insurance in 2003, 2005 and 2013-2014; the largest source of insurance was employers, primarily covering those with higher education levels, whereas government-sponsored insurance increased significantly among those with lower education levels. Further research is needed to elucidate barriers to obtaining prescription eyewear and the degree to which affordability impairs access to vision correction.
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