Donuts and the VSP Affiliate Program

By Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO August 17, 2012

If I told you that I could sign a contract that would deliver 9 out of every 10 customers to your donut shop, I am sure you would be thrilled. If I announced that winning the contract hinged on allowing customers to have a choice of where they purchased donuts, you might be a little less excited at the thought of them purchasing some donuts at a competitor’s shop. If I pointed out that, throughout history, customers have been successfully directed to member donut shops at a 90% confidence rate when under contract, you should again begin to smile. And finally, it should be obvious that the more “9 out of 10” contracts signed, the better. Such contracts are a big win for your donut shop (and mine).

This is exactly the game plan with the VSP Affiliate Program. Offering a retail choice is a basic requirement for contracting with many employers. They simply will not accept bids from any organization that does not offer a contractual retail option. Since its inception, the Affiliate Program has helped VSP win or renew nearly 800 contracts representing access to more than 9.5 million potential patients. Again, none of these contracts would have been won without the Affiliate Program.

When VSP wins a contract, patients are directed to VSP network doctors. Remember: Affiliate providers are not on the VSP panel. Rather, they are an option only for those specific contracts wherein the employer has determined that there be a retail option. Of the more than 4 million claims submitted in the past 12 months on behalf of employer groups with the affiliate option, less than 1% were submitted by affiliate providers. Had these 800 contracts been lost to a competitor, it should be clear that far less of these patients would have ended up in VSP network doctor offices.

Affiliate providers currently include Costco, Visionworks (formerly Eye Care Centers of America), Wisconsin Vision, and RxOptical, which is being added effective September 24, 2012. Costco and Visionworks have locations across the U.S. Both Wisconsin Vision and RxOptical fill a regional void and allow VSP to compete for clients in their respective regions.

As I see it, the mission of VSP is to direct as many patients as possible to network doctor practices. Employers are demanding choice for their employees. The Affiliate Program has successfully met contracting requirements and has resulted in the vast majority of patients under these contracts being successfully directed to independent network doctor practices.

By the way, my favorite donut is the maple bacon from Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon. Highly recommended!

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