We all know health insurance is something you shouldn't live without, but what about vision care insurance? Your ability to see is surely almost as important as your health. Vision insurance is designed to help you cover and budget for ongoing vision care expenses like routine eye exams, prescription glasses and contact lenses.
- 62% of adult population in the United States uses prescriptive eye wear, only 48% have a vision exam every year or less
- The number of visually impaired people likely will double by 2030 according to VisionWatch
- 1 out of 4 children have vision problems
Overview of vision care insurance
Here's how vision care insurance works. You pay the vision insurer for your premium for individual plans. In exchange, you'll receive benefits such as discounted vision exams, glasses and contacts. Some plans also pay out if you are diagnosed with an eye disorder or if your vision becomes permanently impaired. Most vision care plans allow you to see a provider in the plan's network or simply require you to be treated by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist—in other words, a vision care professional who has graduated from an accredited college of optometry and is licensed by the state or who has gone to medical school and is certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. If you already have an eye doctor you want to keep seeing, try to make sure they are in network.
Each plan covers a different set of expenses. Before signing up for any plan, check to see if it covers everything you expect to need. More comprehensive plans don't stop at exams and vision correction, they 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. Most plans also 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. One plan might charge you a $10 co-payment for an eye exam and cover the difference.
We've already touched on some of the limitations of vision care insurance. Here are some additional factors to consider when deciding whether to purchase coverage.
How does the insurance policy define the scope of a covered eye exam? Some eye doctors include services in the exam the plan does not cover. Be clear with your doctor that what they are adding will be covered.
The plan might cover lenses for glasses, but only basic lenses. If you want lightweight or anti-glare lenses, you'll pay all of the extra cost.
The plan might cover frames but only up to a certain amount, so if you want a pair of $250 frames, only part of your cost will be covered. Or the plan might cover the retail markup of the frames and require you to pay the wholesale cost.
All benefits are usually available every 12 months. Plans may only cover glasses or contacts, some will cover both, during the same benefit period. If you wanted to update both your contacts and your glasses, select a plan that covers both or you would have to get contacts one year, then get another eye exam and choose the glasses 12 months apart.
Fortunately, unlike health insurance, having a pre-existing condition will not make it impossible for you to get vision insurance.
The bottom line
Deciding whether to purchase vision care insurance can be tricky, it's not unilaterally a good or bad deal. Whether it makes sense for you to purchase a policy depends on a number of factors, such as the policy options you have to choose from, the types of vision care products and services you need, and how frequently you need them. To make sure you're getting a product that will be valuable to you. To better understand your options talk with a licensed vision insurance broker.