"The eyes, like a sentinel, occupy the highest place in the body." —Cicero

Our eyes are our lookouts, our sentinels, the windows to our soul. Keeping them healthy should be a top priority. Vision insurance can make caring for your eyes more affordable and more convenient.  

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Your eye doctor can screen for glaucoma, cataracts, and cancer.

But I can see fine. Why do I need vision insurance?

Your yearly eye exam does a lot more than test whether you can still read far-away road signs. Your eye doctor is also looking for tell-tale signs of glaucoma, diabetes, cataracts, cancer, arthritis, cardiac disease, and high blood pressure.

Dr. Roy Chuck, chair of the department of ophthalmology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, notes that your eye doctor can often spot the following conditions just by looking into a patient's eyes:

  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • sickle-cell anemia
  • liver disease
  • Gardner syndrome 

Here's how it works. Your eye is filled with blood vessels. During an eye exam, your doctor is looking for things like restricted bloodflow, narrowed veins, or even internal bleeding. It’s possible that your eyes could provide the first visible indication of a problem your primary care physician isn’t aware of yet. 

That's kind of scary, we know—but scary in a good way.  Imagine how good you’ll feel walking out the optometrist’s office with a clean bill of eye health!

What do I get for my money?

Most plans pay for your yearly eye exam, minus a small co-pay.  If you need corrective lenses, your plan will give you an allowance to spend on lenses and frames or contact lenses.

If you have a family, the savings can really add up. Let's say you, your spouse, and one child all need glasses.You'll have to pay for the eye exam, lenses, and frames for each person. That will cost about $820 per year. (We're not making these numbers up—they come from a real family's experience!)

With the insurance, co-pays, and any overages for frames more expensive than the insurance allowance, this family will pay about $560 per year. Without insurance, the same exams and glasses would have cost the family $820. That's a savings of $260, plus the entire family now has a current prescription and brand-spanking-new glasses. 

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What about out-of-pocket costs?

For the most part, extra products or services above the basic need level will require a bit of out-of-pocket spending.  You get an allowance to spend on frames, for example, and whether you pay out-of-pocket or not depends on the frames you choose and their price. Anything with the name Gucci or Dior is likely to exceed your allowance. Choose wisely.

You are also going to want to check on whether the plan will pay for glasses and contacts in the same year.  Most plans won’t, so you might want to rotate coverage—get contacts on year and replace your glasses the next.  This might mean buying contacts that second year out of your own pocket.

Here's a handy chart that shows you which items or services are likely to be covered in full:

CoveredYou'll Pay
a Bit More
Standard frames Designer frames
Standard lenses Lenses with scratch-resistant coating, anti-reflective coating, UV protection, progressive lenses, tinted or photochromatic lenses
Standard bifocal lenses Blended bifocal lenses
Standard eye exam Contact lens exam

What about LASIK?

Most plans will give you a discount on the cost of LASIK surgery.  You probably won’t find a plan that will cover the surgery in full, since LASIK is considered elective rather than necessary surgery. 

Your health insurance might cover LASIK in a couple of rare circumstances, such as if you’re physically unable to wear either glasses or contacts, or if you require eye surgery because your vision has been impaired due to an injury. Be sure you read your policy’s stipulations.  To get the LASIK discount, you may need to have the surgery with an in-network provider. 

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LittleFourEyes: Is a Vision Plan Worth It?