GVS Speaks To ‘Blue Collar Buzz’ About Who We Serve and How We’re Giving Back

image008_postGVS CEO Myles Lewis recently sat down with Bill Holfeld, host of the Blue Collar Buzz radio show, to talk about RestoringVision, their work with New York’s unions, and also Lewis’ background in the business.


Bill Holfeld: I understand that GVS has just rolled out a new program called RestoringVision. Why don’t you tell us what that is and how it works?

Myles Lewis: Yeah, we’re very excited about it. The first of the year we rolled out a program in partnership with a not-for-profit organization called RestoringVision.org. RestoringVision.org donates glasses to the needy around the world.

BH: Wow! That’s a beautiful thing. And what are the mechanics of that and how does that work?

ML: Right, so in the New York market we service over 3 million union members. Every time one of the union members utilizes their member benefits at one of the GVS preferred providers, we donate a pair of glasses on their behalf.

BH: That’s really nice. Who decides where they’re being donated, and how it goes – how does it all shake out?

ML: We partnered with RestoringVision. RestoringVision has partnerships with about 14,000 not-for-profit charities around the country and around the world. If you’re one of the charities, and let’s say you’re going to Guatemala, and you’re doing flu shots. The charity will also take along with them glasses that we’ve donated. And through a 3-minute training video, we can teach them how to dispense glasses to the needy.

BH: Wow that’s really nice! How did this come about? Whose brainchild was this?

ML: So back in 2003, a gentleman named Mark Sachs – who founded RestoringVision.org – started working with a lot of frame and eyeglass manufacturers with excess inventory. You know, the manufacturer doesn’t want their stuff to end up on the grey market, or being sold online, so they historically destroyed it. So he started getting those donations from them, and finding ways to distribute it through these 14,000 charity relationships.

BH: So he actually took this concept that there’s always a lot of waste involved – especially in the richest country in the world, which we are, and unfortunately there’s waste – and he found a way, and not to disservice anybody, but to recapture that waste and make sure it got distributed to people who needed it.

ML: That’s right! And it’s life changing for people. There are stories – in the US [and] other places in the world – where people put on these glasses and it’s life changing. They can either work, or become productive members of society. There are literally situations of children staying home from school, because they’re the eyes and ears for their grandparents. You give the grandparents the glasses, now the kids can go back to school and learn. So there are a lot of positive things coming out of it. And to date, there’s been 6.5 million glasses distributed to people in need.

BH: That’s incredible! It resonates with me, because [while] it wasn’t anywhere as dramatic, I can remember my eyes – I’ve been an eyeglass wearer since I was 12 years old – and my eyes really started to change when I was around 12. And I realized I just couldn’t see anything that was written on the blackboard. It’s funny – when you have what you need, you take it for granted very often. So I went home, told my folks “I can’t see what’s on the blackboard,” and they took me to the optometrist and they got [me] a pair of glasses. The next day I came in, and I said, “Oh my god, look what I’ve been missing here!” But there are people, and not just in Guatemala, there are lots of people right here in the US who can’t afford to go to the optometrist.

ML: We work with those charities in the US as well. It could be a situation where there’s a national disaster, and people have lost everything. So the charities are down there working with that. Part of our donations are going to those people.

I have a very similar story as well from school. I remember they used to [ask], “Can anybody not see the board?” Of course I would raise my hand and they would move me to the front. But as dumb as that sounds, I just thought I couldn’t see the board, I never thought I needed glasses. You went home and told your parents … I never did that.

You don’t know what you don’t know. You presume you see just like everybody else sees.

BH: You guys just rolled this out. What’s the response been from the labor unions?

ML: It’s been fantastic actually. The members have an option sometimes, when we do business with them, that they can go to many preferred providers. It can be our organization or a competitor of ours. But if you’re a member selecting where you want to go and use your benefits, you might as well do some social good with it. So we’ve gotten really tremendous feedback.

BH: So what does the member do? They check a box, or they don’t even have to do that? It just happens automatically?

ML: The donation happens automatically, but we interact with the members where they can either schedule an eye exam appointment through our concierge line – most of our labor unions have a dedicated phone number, where they call in to General Vision’s service department, we answer on a Concierge line specific to that union. And they can also interact with us through our website. The website is specifically for the members. It’s not a sales tool or anything like that, and they can go onto the website, they can put in their account number, and they can look up their benefits. In many cases, [they can] check their eligibility, [and] find their location that’s convenient for them. Some people like to get their eyes examined when they’re near work or at home – they can find that location and actually schedule the doctor’s appointment right there through the website. It’s all done electronically. Once that claim comes in, that’s what triggers us to make the donation.

BH: Are your members just in New York [or] are they in the metropolitan area? How far reaching is it?

ML: That’s a great question! General Vision’s roots are in New York, [with] 60 years here in the labor market. But we are a national company [and] we have a national footprint with 40,000 preferred providers around the country. But again, our home base is here, our corporate office is right here in Manhattan, [and] our whole work force is here, so we’re very New York-based. But as the world changes, predominantly there’s members here, but there’s retirees in Arizona, or there are retirees in Florida, or if you’re an employer group, and you’ve got someone working out of a small call center let’s say in Phoenix [then] you need to be national. So, hence, we’re a national company.

BH: So if you’ve got 40,000 providers, how many actual clients are being provided for?

ML: The number of clients is about 600, most headquartered here. But we have to cover them nationally – so if someone’s traveling, of if they’ve got a retiree population, or some workforce of theirs not located in the New York metro area.

BH: That aggregate workforce, with all those unions, how many people are you actually providing eye care to?

ML: So not everyone needs a benefit every year. Some of the benefits are every two years, and not everybody wears glasses, so we position it as we have access to 3 million people, but not all 3 million are running out every year to get benefits. So we service about 300,000 members a year.

BH: That’s a significant portion of the population. So a lot of the people you do service are labor union people, so can you talk about your philosophy about dealing with working people and the unions?

ML: It’s really our sweet spot. It’s our niche. It’s what we love to do. So we’re constantly looking for ways to enhance their benefit and their experience. What we do is [when] a labor union sets aside a certain amount of money for [optical] service, then we build a rich benefit program around that.

BH: What’s nice is when you deal with the various labor unions, and I’m not sure if everyone out there understands that – is they can really customize that, because labor unions, and everybody [else], not everyone has the same eye needs.

ML: That’s right.

BH: You pride yourselves on being able to customize those programs…

ML: Yes we do. We have 600 different clients, and really 600 different programs.

BH: You also do some preventative stuff as well, don’t you – like preventative eye care programs that you have in place?

ML: Yeah, we do. One of the unique things we do in this market is we provide mobile eye care centers. If you can picture an RV in your mind – a recreational vehicle – we bring that to the worksite. It’s got an optometrist to perform the eye exam, and it has a full collection of frames that they can pick from that are covered in their program. And we can service them right there, so we do that a lot, with a lot of our clients. We bring the service right to them, right to their worksite.

BH: Myles, it sounds to me, from where I’m sitting, that you have a corporate culture that tells you intuitively that you can do well by doing good.

ML: Right! We’ve actually named the RestoringVision program “See Well, Do Good.”

BH: Is that right? I didn’t know that. Alright, so obviously it’s hitting on the right notes.

ML: Yes, great. Thank you.

BH: And how long have you been doing this Myles?

ML: I’ve been in the optical business 25 years. I’ve been on the retail side, but most of that has been on the healthcare side.

BH: Alright Myles, well I want to thank you for coming on. I want to thank you for telling us about your program. Now, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, and they wanted to sign up for your services, do you have a website, do you have a phone number? Why don’t you give us that information?

ML: Sure. My email address is Myles L, so M-Y-L-E-S-L, so MylesL@GVS.bz, and my direct phone number at the office here is 212-729-5336.

BH: Well, Myles, once again, thank you for coming on the program and speaking with us today. And thanks for all the good work you do out there.

ML: Thank you, [we’re] very proud of it!

Introducing the 2017 GVS Trend Report!

We believe that eyewear doesn’t have to just be for seeing the world around you: it can be a fashion statement or a “you” statement. It can be just as important to your look as your shoes, your bag, or your hairstyle. Here in the GVS Trend Report, you’ll find a wide array of current styles and fashions for your eyes and all sorts of ways to accessorize. Contact your GVS Account Executive today to receive a copy.

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GVS Invites Clients to Give the Gift of Sight

GVS Invites Clients to Give the Gift of Sight

New York, NY (January 2017) — General Vision Services (GVS) is proud to announce a partnership with RestoringVision in an effort to bring clear vision to people worldwide.

RestoringVision is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free new glasses to disadvantaged people. As of January 1, 2017, every time a GVS member uses their vision benefits via a GVS eyecare provider, GVS will donate a pair of glasses to a person in need.

Currently, 2.5 billion people suffer from uncorrected vision impairment worldwide and 544 million of them have limited access to eyewear. A pair of glasses can be life-changing. Studies have shown that vision correction leads to a 35% increase in productivity, leading to greater fulfillment.

Myles Lewis, GVS’ CEO, is honored to join forces with this humanitarian initiative. RestoringVision’s mission aligns perfectly with GVS’ commitment to accessible eye care. “Giving the gift of sight is such a generous, meaningful thing to do! Just by scheduling an eye exam for themselves, our members can change the lives of those in need.”

Mark Sachs, RestoringVision Founder, added “We are excited to partner with GVS. With their support, we will be able to reach a greater number of communities and provide clear vision to even more people in need, enabling them to work, read, learn and lead productive lives again.”

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About GVS

Since its inception more than 60 years ago, GVS has been proudly serving ore than 3 million members of unions, HMOs and corporations. GVS continues to be a leading Eyecare Benefits Administrator and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) provider of eyecare plans nationally. To learn more about GVS, please visit generalvision.com.

About RestoringVision

RestoringVision is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to distributing new reading glasses and sunglasses to charitable organizations serving disadvantaged people in developing countries. Since 2003, RestoringVision has partnered with more than 1,400 organizations and helped over 6.5 million people around the world. For more information about RestoringVision, visit restoringvision.org.

GHS: Cutting Costs and Offering More

May 23, 2016
By Peter Murdoch 

New York, NY – Hearing loss is no longer just your grandfather’s problem. Studies indicate that over the next 10 to 15 years, nearly one-third of the general population will actually be hearing impaired. Already, those below retirement age represent the majority of people suffering at least some degree of hearing loss. And that includes both men and women alike.

Ubiquitous electronic devices designed for entertainment — everything from iPods to home theaters with surround sound — are partly to blame, exposing kids to ever more harmful noises at much earlier ages. The damage is cumulative so that by the time we reach our 40s, our eyesight isn’t the only sense that begins to falter.

Working — and even just living in the big city — only makes matters worse.  Not surprisingly, members of noisy construction trades are particularly vulnerable to hearing loss. One recent study finds that a 20-year-old carpenter entering the industry who fails to avail him- or herself to proper noise protection gear, risks profound damage to his or her hearing. Left unprotected, that same 20-year-old apprentice carpenter could wind up with the hearing of a 55-year-old veteran after just five years on the job.

Hearing aids are better than they’ve ever been — but carry hefty price tags. The average cost of a digital processing device with noise-canceling properties is about $2500. And the collective lifespans of these miraculous devices is finite — about five to six years. Most union benefit plans roughly offering $500 allowances every couple of years, really aren’t effective ways of offsetting the out-of-pocket cost for a member.

GHS — General Hearing Services, a division of General Vision Services — is taking a different approach. By utilizing the EPIC network of some 6,000 providers nationwide, the company is able to offer members significant discounts (up to 60 percent) on cutting-edge hearing devices. Together, with greater allowances occurring less often, GHS is offering the New York labor market a new product model capable of greatly relieving hearing aid sticker shock — and in some cases, even providing members with a “paid-in-full benefit.”

“Generally, when somebody doesn’t have access to a network, providers are trying to up-sell the clients to the most expensive products — so that whatever benefits are being provided through the funds, really aren’t able to minimize their out of pocket expense,” Sales & Marketing Director Mike Reha says.

GHS even offers members a three-year-warranty on hearing devices, as well as a one-year supply of batteries.Your good hearing is vulnerable like never before.

One union official explains his group’s experience with GHS this way: “The hearing program is valuable since our membership is exposed to loud noises on the streets each day. We promote the hearing

program to encourage our members to get their ears checked regularly in the event of hearing loss. We made a smart decision recently to implement this program with GHS to educate and promote this service onto our membership.  Healthy members are productive, happy members.”

GHS wants members to think about hearing the same way they do about their eyesight and their teeth. Both demand constant vigilance and attention — and so should our hearing.

“The reason you do this is to prevent further issues down the road,” GHS’ Tony Rosario explains. “We’re creating more awareness so that more people don’t become early candidates for hearing loss.

Together with GVS — General Vision Services — GHS is the only company now out there combining vision and health benefits is a single holistic plan that stresses health & well-being, in addition to comprehensive cost savings.

The approach, Rosario says, is a “no-brainer” that more unions are eagerly embracing.

Click here for more information about GHS’ health & wellness program.


View this article at laborpress.org

Safeguarding Your Health — And looking Great Doing It with GVS!

It’s break time at MTA bus depots, train yards, overhaul shops, maintenance facilities and warehouses throughout the city, but the most hotly anticipated vehicle rolling up to the worksite probably isn’t the local food truck — it’s General Vision Service’s Mobile Eye Care Center.

Outfitted with advanced diagnostic testing, as well as access to hundreds of today’s most sought after fashion frames — GVS’ fleet of Mobile Eye Care Center vans is making it easy for working men and women across a variety of job sites throughout the metropolitan area to safeguard their health — and look great doing it.

“It’s a full eye care store on wheels,” says CEO Myles Lewis.

Each GVS Mobile Eye Care Center will spend eight full hours at a worksite, regularly accommodating over 30 patients per visit. The ability to see as many as five workers at a time, streamlines the entire examination experience even further.

As much of 80 percent of learning occurs through sight — so, the impact of superior vision on productivity cannot be overstated. And in addition to fashion frames, GVS Mobile Eye Care Centers also cater to those in need of prescription eyewear.

“The GVS Mobile Eye Care van provides an invaluable optical service to our members who are located at various facilities throughout the New York Metro area,” TWU Local 100’s Chris Lightbourne says. “Most of our members are too diligently working to schedule a proper eye doctor visit. The GVS Mobile Eye Care facilitates this in ways that are so important to hard to reach Transit workers, such as track workers, train operators and bus operators. We are very appreciative of this service as we know we are unable to obtain this type of service with any other vision provider.”

But a complete eye exam is crucial to workers for another fundamental reason, as well. It is the only non-surgical procedure that gives doctors the ability to detect over 30 systemic conditions not only of the eye — but the entire body.

The comprehensive examinations that optometrists administer at all in-network provider locations and soon in the GVS’ Mobile Eye Care Centers, can detect and identify the presence of serious health threats including, diabetes, hypertension, HIV, tumors of the brain and more. In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to be whisked to an emergency room for lifesaving treatment after an eye examination has revealed a serious medical issue in progress.

“The effectiveness of a routine eye exam has helped save lives,” Tony Rosario, GVS senior vice-president says.

Regular eye exams are also smart for another reason — they’re proven extremely important in achieving longterm savings.

“The only way to bend the cost curve in healthcare is early detection,” Lewis says. “That would require annual eye exams. The reality of it is, you have to have an annual eye exam. They should almost pay people to get an annual eye exam — and, in fact, we are seeing that now.”

With more than 60 years of history behind it, GVS presently manages vision care benefits for some 400 active unions, including TWU Local 100.

Despite the essential nature of proper eye care, or perhaps because of it, designer eyeglass frames are terribly pricey. Recent studies rank them among the highest markup items in any retail industry — behind only bottled water and movie popcorn. Overall, consumers can expect to shell out an average of $400 on eyeglasses.

GVS’ benefit programs, however, will cover the high cost of that $400 retail price and even more for its covered members, depending on how benefits are structured for a particular employer group.

“We have collections in approximately 200 locations where members can choose from up to 200-250 frames that would be covered in full, or at a fixed cost to the member so that it’s not sticker shock when a member’s purchasing frames,” Rosario says.

GVS coverage is actually even more extensive than that, providing members allowances of approximately $100 to $200 on virtually any eyeglass frame they may desire.

“And that is consistent with our national program, too, where we go one step further, and have a cost containment formula that allows those programs nationally to cover about approximately 33,000 frames at no cost to the member,” Rosario says.

Another inescapable cost involves the lenses themselves. Newer technologies for progressive lenses, and lenses treated with anti-glare coatings carry hefty price tags. But GVS has members covered on that score as well — saving them between 50 to 60 percent off retail.

“When a member goes in and they have a need for eyeglasses, they really get excited when they’re walking away with a pair of designer eyeglasses,” Rosario says. “Everybody is in tune to how they look.”