A fellow blogger sent me the following question:
What do you hear about VSP opening up their plans to chains and other "types" of practices who they previously didn't offer the ability to be a provider for their insurance?
I hear they are still not going to allow an independent optician to be part of their network.
VSP is faced with some significant competition from EyeMed, which certainly includes chain retailers in the form of Lenscrafters and Pearle. So, VSP might feel compelled to add some kind of provider alternative to combat EyeMed's promoted advantage (Mr. Employer Group – "our Lenscrafter's relationship provides your employees with 7 day a week service access and the pricing advantages of Lenscrafters"). So, we might see VSP making an attempt to combat that "advantage."
As for adding private opticians to their provider network, I think that anything along those lines is pure conjecture and, perhaps, wishful thinking on the part of opticians. What purpose would it serve? Certainly, it would appear that there's little benefit on the insurance side and, indeed, such a move represents additional cost to VSP. In my opinion, as it relates to the insurance side, VSP doesn't need more "independent" providers.
On the Marchon side, one would guess that they thought this situation through prior to the acquistion and feel they're going to add more opportunitywith the VSP association then they'll lose because of pushback from non-VSP customers frozen out of the Provider Network. That said, one has to believe that Marchon's focus, and perhaps even VSP's, is largely international. That was a significant stated objective with the acquisition. One can assume that the addition of Claudio Gottardias Marchon's COO only supports that focus.
On the lab side, it would appear beneficial for VSP to open its doors to opticians…but why would opticians follow (there's lots of good labs and price competition is fierce)and would the resulting push-back from their current provider network be worth it? And then one must consider that non-examining opticians (vs. optician/O.D. combinations) are not much of a market for Officemate products.
In the US, VSP already "owns" 55 million consumers. That's what has driven their business in the past. Now, with the loss of their non-profit status and their acquisition of Marchon, one must question who VSP is today. Are they a provider of patients to their private O.D. network? Are they a supplier of frames and lenses? Are they an integrated retailer? Until they answer this question with their actions, we'll have a hard time predicting their moves.
Perhaps, the real question is: Does VSP care enough about its existing provider base to be loyal to them at the expense of Marchon market share? Can they serve multiple masters?