Vision care insurer VSP to cover Google Glass

The nation's largest optical health insurance provider will offer frames and prescription lenses for Google Glass, reports the New York Times.

The deal between VSP, which insures one-fifth of Americans, and Google "could take wearable devices, which tech analysts say are the next wave of computing, out of the realm of science fiction and into the mainstream by making them more affordable and giving them a medical stamp of approval," according to the article. The agreement also opens the door to a "new level of cooperation between the healthcare and consumer electronics industries, which could lead to a world in which people wear or even ingest computers."

Google plans to begin selling the high-tech glasses to the public later this year, which will use the same software as Android smartphones, and be equipped with GPS, motion sensors and cameras, as well as a heads-up display. Currently, the Glass computing device costs $1,500 for those people invited by Google to purchase the existing version. Later this year when Google introduces the consumer version, it will retail for several hundred dollars less.

A VSP lab in Sacramento, Calif. will cut the lenses for Google Glass frames. VSP will reimburse its members based on their prescription plan, with an average reimbursement of $120, plus the cost of buying prescription lenses. However, the insurance provider will not subsidize the computer component of Google Glass.

The article reports that VSP and Google have created a training program for optometrists to learn how to mount the Glass device on frames and fit Glass on people's faces. Matthew Alpert, an optometrist in Los Angeles who is on the board of VSP Global, the insurer's parent company, is quoted as saying that it is critical that the nose pads are adjusted so the heads-up display is not in people's direct field of vision.

Google Glass has strong potential for healthcare and Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, has even performed preliminary testing of the glasses with plans for a pilot in the medical school's emergency department.

To learn more:
- read the article in the New York Times