We all can ultimately agree that health insurance is a must, but what about vision care insurance? When you think about your health and then about your vision, being able to see is equally as important as other health concerns. Eye exams at every age and life stage can help keep your vision healthy. Many people think their eyesight is just fine, but then they get that first pair of glasses or contact lenses and the world comes into clearer view… everything from fine print to street signs! Improving your eyesight is essential, and about 11 million Americans over age 12 need vision correction! (1) This is just one of the reasons to get your eyes examined. Regular eye exams are also an important part of finding eye diseases early and preserving your vision.
How does vision insurance work?
First, the cost – Most individual vision insurance plan premiums range between $5 and $15 a month. To add coverage for a spouse, domestic partner, or child, you may pay slightly less per person than the plan’s individual rate. If your employer offers vision care insurance, you may only have one opportunity per year to sign up during the annual open enrollment period. After you are enrolled and pay your premium, you will begin to receive benefits such as discounted vision exams, glasses, and contacts. Some plans also payout if you are diagnosed with an eye disorder or if your vision becomes permanently impaired. Depending on your policy, you may be required to see a provider in the plan’s network, while other vision care plans simply require you to be treated by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. If you already have an eye doctor, you want to keep seeing, make sure their services will be covered by the plan you’re thinking about purchasing.
What is covered depends on your plan, so before signing up for any plan, check to see if it covers everything you expect to need. Basic policies usually cover only eye exams, contacts, and glasses – often functioning as more of a “discount plan” than insurance. More comprehensive plans cover more than exams and vision correction. These types of plans may also help with the costs of eye surgery, eye diseases (e.g., diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration), and permanent vision impairment. (2) Most plans also may provide discounts on laser eye-correction surgery. The amount of an eye-related expense a vision care plan will cover, differs significantly from plan to plan. (2) One plan might charge you a $10 co-payment for an eye exam and cover the difference. (2) Another plan might pay for $35 of your exam and expect you to pay the rest. (2) Also, if a plan does offer coverage for eye surgery or permanent vision loss, it may not be anything like the coverage you’re used to getting from health insurance. For example, if you need eye surgery for glaucoma (an optic nerve disease that gradually causes blindness), you won’t pay an annual deductible of $200 for the procedure and have the remainder covered by vision insurance. Instead, your insurance might simply give you a flat payment of $1,000 for the surgery and leave the rest up to you. (2) This system might sound stingy, but it has a bright side—by placing greater responsibility on patients to cover their costs and shop around for the best value, insurance companies can charge their customers lower premiums. (2)
Is it worth it?
Now, to determine if vision insurance is worth it for you, it really comes down to whether the policy’s total annual cost compares to your anticipated annual vision care expenses. No one wants to pay out more than they expect to receive; however, here’s where the truth comes in. Most people who don’t have vision insurance, don’t plan to spend money on their vision. Their vision care often gets shifted to the bottom of the list as they tend not to seek preventive care and end up waiting until an issue arises, and they have to seek urgent care. If this doesn’t sound like you since you regularly receive vision exams and pay out of pocket, then determining if vision insurance is a right move for you – really comes down to the plan you choose. Be sure to check out the plan’s limitations, if you can continue visiting your vision care provider, and if the annual cost compares to your average vision care expenses.