Google Glass Users to Get Optical Insurance Coverage Through VSP

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-01-28
Google Glass

Google Glass Users to Get Optical Insurance Coverage Through VSP

When Google Glass devices go on sale later in 2014, vision insurance vendor VSP Global will offer reimbursements for Glass frames and lenses under a deal announced by the companies.

"The VSP/Google partnership includes developing and implementing a training certification for providers, high-quality and experienced manufacturing through the VSPOne Sacramento lab and reimbursement coverage for VSP members and providers," VSP told eWEEK in an email reply to an inquiry on Jan. 28. "With respect to the vision coverage, VSP members will be able to receive reimbursement on Glass frames. The Glass prescription lenses are also covered under the patients lens benefit through their VSP Glass Preferred Provider.  Actual reimbursements will vary dependent on plan type."

The possibility of VSP insurance coverage for Google Glass frames and lenses first surfaced in November 2013 when The Wall Street Journal reported that a deal was in the works between Google and VSP to help Google sell prescription versions of Glass when the eyewear-mounted computer devices are expected to go on sale this year. VSP provides vision services to about 64 million people in the United States, or about one in five people, according to the company.

Since Google Glass is only available so far through the Explorer Program, or through a direct invitation from a Glass Explorer to another person, customers who want to obtain a prescription version of Glass will still have to go through the Glass Website other early users employ, according to Google. In the Web store, Explorers will be able to go to the "Accessories" section of the site to select and buy Glass frames that can accommodate prescription lenses, according to Google.

"We have partnered with VSP (Vision Service Plan) to train Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) across the U.S. on Glass and the prescription frames," Google stated in an FAQ on the site. "Explorers can see the list of our Preferred ECPs during the ordering process (Explorers can however take your Glass frames to another ECP, not on this list, but the ones on the list have been trained on how to measure for, fit and use Glass). Once an Explorer receives Glass either at a Basecamp or in the mail, he/she then takes the device to an ECP who can cut and fit the prescription lenses for Glass."

Users will have to have an eyeglass prescription that is no more than 12 months old, or they will have to go for a new prescription.

So far, there are four styles of Glass frames that are available for purchase, including curved, thin, split and bold frames, according to Google. All four models are displayed on the Glass Website. "We looked at the industry and all the styles that people love" in choosing the first designs, Google stated. "Naturally, we can't make hundreds of styles in this first collection, so we chose the four iconic styles that would resonate most with a wide range of people."

Attachable sun shades are also available in several styles for purchase. The frames will cost $225, while the shades will sell for $150, according to Google. Users will have to check with VSP to find out how much of the fees are reimbursable under their vision plans.

Google Glass Users to Get Optical Insurance Coverage Through VSP

The move by VSP to partner with Google Glass makes perfect sense for the long-term mission of VSP, Jim McGrann, president of VSP Vision Care, said in a statement. "Google Glass is the kind of cutting-edge technology that VSP Vision Care is always looking to bring to VSP eyecare providers and 60 million VSP members. As a not-for-profit, our partnership with Google helps fulfill our mission to help people see by connecting high-quality eyecare services through VSP doctors while delivering relevant products to meet the eyecare needs of VSP members."

Dr. Matthew Alpert, O.D., chairman of optometric innovation for VSP Global, in a statement called Glass "one of the most exciting optical-related technologies brought to consumers in the last decade. Glass clearly has many potential benefits for the profession of optometry and the 60 million patients VSP Vision Care serves. The partnership between VSP and Google will ensure consumers receive both the best technological experience and the best prescription eyewear and financial benefit, from the respective leaders in technology and eyecare."

Since the first Glass devices began shipping to Explorers in April 2013, some users had already been modifying their Glass units to work with prescription lenses, based on reports from users on social media sites and other sources.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of the futuristic devices first surfaced in 2012 at the Google I/O developer's conference. Developers at the show were offered the chance to buy early Explorer versions of Glass for $1,500 for testing and development. Glass was the hit of the conference.

In November 2013, Google offered a sneak peek at its Glass Development Kit (GDK) for developers to gain even broader control and innovation in their next designs and features for Google Glass apps. The GDK is an add-on to the Android Software Developers Kit that lets developers build Glass apps, called Glassware, that run directly on Glass.

In October 2013, Google began a Glass program that allowed existing users to invite up to three friends to buy their own eyewear-mounted computers now, before they go on sale to the general public sometime later this year. The invite-a-friend program was viewed by Google as a way to expand its Glass Explorer Program. Existing early Glass users also received a one-time chance to trade in their current Glass devices for the latest model, which includes improvements and updates.

Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.

Rocket Fuel