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    CVS and VSP: What the new deal means for you

    Baltimore—CVS announced that it would work with VSP to begin providing vision care services at five of its stores in the Baltimore and Washington, DC, areas, raising concerns among independent eyecare providers in Maryland.


    VSP’s role in CVS vision care

    VSP will provide the eyecare and eyewear services in the five CVS stores. VSP will subcontract with the doctors who work in CVS locations. CVS will carry a selection of Marchon and Altair eyewear frames, although not exclusively. It will also offer VSP Optics lens brands and use the VSPOne Lab network.

    CVS has been a VSP client for its employees since 2002, and VSP says the partnership is currently limited to the five Maryland stores.

    VSP’s decision to become a part of CVS’ new vision care program surprised many of its member doctors, especially those in Baltimore and Washington, DC.

    Recent: When cost dictates treatment, patients lose

    Immediate past-president of the Maryland Optometric Association (MOA) John Burns, OD, has been a VSP provider for more than 20 years. He says this move will be taking patients away from him—and all other independent ODs who are VSP providers in the area.

    “Now, we’re competing with a commercial establishment, which was never VSP’s credo when they opened for business,” says Dr. Burns. “Honestly, I think a lot of us think that this is just about selling more Marchon and Altair frames at the expense of us—you know, the little guys.”

    Alan Glazier, OD, FAAO, a VSP doctor who practices in Rockville, MD, says he is disappointed with the company’s decision to get caught up in what he calls “the race to the bottom.”

    “They’ve gotten so far away from their original mission to serve the independent doctor,” he says, “to the point where now they’ve made an actual hostile move and are competing directly against us.”

    American Optometric Association President Steve Loomis, OD, says that both CVS and VSP have the right to do whatever they’d like—but it’s clear they’re acting in their own best interests.

    “The notion that either of those entities is acting in the doctors’ best interests is just not true,” says Dr. Loomis. “Insurance companies are going to act in their own best interests.”

    VSP declined to respond to comment on member concerns.

    “The MOA is watching the materialization of CVS ‘Minute Clinics’ closely,” says Andrew Morgenstern, OD, FAAO, president-elect of MOA, in a statement from MOA. “As its name suggests, these clinics are designed to provide care to the masses in a quick fashion. For some patients, this model will be convenient, safe, and effective, but we must also keep in mind that all patients require and deserve comprehensive eye care. In a culture where the pharmaceutical sales industry has a significant impact on private and corporatized medicine, ownership of all facets of the patient experience can significantly impact the quality of care. In this instance there is a potential monopolization of the patient experience. The MOA recognizes these ‘Minute Clinics’ can now bring the patient into the pharmacy directly for treatment, control employment of the doctors, maintain ownership of the optical material companies as well as the vision insurance company; all under the same billing system. This begs for independent oversight. The MOA’s primary concern is for our patients' safety, their proper care, and appropriate medical management, while maintaining a reasonable fee structure without any practitioner bias.”

    Bryan Rogoff, OD, MBA, CPHM, an independent corporate and private practice consultant in Baltimore, says he understands why independent doctors are upset about the announcement. But from a business perspective, he sees why CVS is jumping into vision care—and why VSP is working with CVS. Both industries—pharmacies and eye care—are becoming increasingly consolidated, and companies are looking for the best strategy to stay in business, he says.

    “The private optometrists have a legitimate claim that this is direct competition, but business is business,” he says.

    Next: Should you be worried?

    Colleen E. McCarthy
    Colleen McCarthy is a freelance writer based in the Cleveland area and a former editor of Optometry Times. She is a 2010 graduate of the ...

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    • StewartGooderman
      Optometry has no one to blame but themselves: too many graduates, too willing to race to the bottom. How many of you practitioners that are complaining have bought in to VSP Premier? Buying/selling all those Marchon and Altair frames? How many have bought into the EHR systems? If you have, I don't want to hear any whining. You did this to yourselves.

    Optometry Times A/V