As you explore your vision insurance options, you may begin to wonder what sort of cost benefits you can expect out of the plan you ultimately side with. After all, the whole point of enrolling in a vision insurance plan is to save money and preserve your eye health proactively.
While different plans and providers will lead to different financial outcomes, there are a few general statistics to be aware of that can help you come to an informed decision while reaping the most savings possible.
Let's take a closer look at how much you can save with a vision insurance plan, depending on your needs.
How Much Does Vision Insurance Cost?
Vision insurance prices will vary from provider to provider, but generally, you can expect to pay monthly premiums at very affordable prices for most plans.
Many providers will feature different insurance packages that allow you to pick what best suits your needs. Plans with greater coverage will usually run at higher prices, but potentially offer more benefits and savings in return. These options could be useful if you want higher frame allowances or lower copays on lens enhancements (like anti-glare coatings or progressive lenses). Make sure to read the benefits each vision plan includes and select the one that most closely lines up with your vision needs.
For example, VSP® Individual Vision Plans has four different vision insurance plans to choose from. The most basic package (called Standard) runs as low as $12.73/month in the state of Ohio (know that prices vary by state and are subject to change) and includes convenient savings on eye exams and eyewear. Two of the other plans, EasyOptions and Enhanced, run - in our example - at $24.27/month and $29.13/month respectively, and provide better coverage for eyewear customization and in-office charges. Lastly, VSP has an EyewearOnly120 plan that costs only $10.16/month and is intended for those who are only looking for coverage on basic glasses purchases ($1.50 membership fee not included).
Prices shown are subject to change at any time and are for illustration purpose only. Always check the vendor for updated pricing in your state.
Other providers may offer vision insurance for as low as $5 per month. However, these packages won’t likely have all the features you're looking for. Once again, pay close attention to the details.
For Routine Visits and Eye Exams
Because glasses and contact lens prescriptions usually need to be continually renewed through office visits, patients with refractive errors can find big savings on their eyewear with a quality vision insurance plan.
Most of the time, your health insurance will not help fit the bill for routine optometrist visits (which normally involve an eye chart reading, eye pressure check, and dilated examination). An annual eye exam for a new patient without vision insurance can cost you anywhere from $120 to $250, depending on the practice. Subsequent visits tend to be a little cheaper, but again, the actual price is largely up to the clinic.
This is why vision insurance may not be right for someone who does not need to make any eyewear purchases. In some cases, paying for a single annual eye exam out-of-pocket every year is cheaper than a year's worth of monthly vision insurance premiums (though the net savings won't be significant). The drawback, however, is that you run the risk of paying full price for glasses if you discover you need them after your out-of-pocket appointment, making vision insurance a good safety net to have regardless.
If you have eyewear costs to consider in addition to your yearly exams, vision insurance will help you save money on both.
Looking back to VSP Individual Vision Plans, three of their four insurance packages boast annual eye exam copays of only $15. If we assume a $15 monthly premium for 12 months on top of the copay, the total comes to $195 at the end of the year. A basic lens copay is then $25. VSP provides you with an allowance of $150 for frames or contact lenses. Assuming you also get a few lens enhancements like anti-glare and tint (and don't go over your allowance), it's reasonable to end up paying about $250 to $350 for your own eye needs before the new year rolls around. That includes your eye exam and eyewear…and next year, you might not even need a new pair of glasses if your prescription stays the same.
Compare that price to the out-of-pocket expenses you'll see without insurance, which might cost you upwards of $1,000 or more if you plan to purchase eyewear along with your eye exam. Unless you live comfortably without any refractive errors and can get by with only one out-of-pocket visit each year, you can probably cut back a lot of costs with good vision insurance.
Does Vision Insurance Cover Emergencies?
While it’s important to not confuse vision insurance with health insurance, many (but not all) vision insurance plans will cover emergency eye care visits. If they don’t, your medical coverage will step forward to assist with the bills instead.
Vision insurance plans usually pay for a routine eye exam each year. If you work yourself into an eye doctor's schedule because you're experiencing a sudden onset of blurriness, an ophthalmic migraine, itchiness or irritation in your eyes, ocular discharge, loss of vision, increased floater activity, or another similar emergency, double-check whether or not you can depend on your vision insurance to help cover the visit..
Does Vision Insurance Cover LASIK?
LASIK, or Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a surgery that corrects relatively low-risk refractive errors by smoothing out the surface of your cornea via a laser, allowing you to see clearly without the need for daily vision correction (or at the very least with a far lighter prescription). This procedure essentially eliminates the need for glasses or contact lenses until much later in life and is commonly performed on people between 20 and 40 years old.
Being that many people are able to live out their lives seeing clearly through normal eye correction, LASIK is considered elective surgery, meaning it is not covered by medical insurance.
Compare this to cataract surgery, which removes a cloudy film that develops inside the eyes as most people age beyond 60 years old. The removal of cataracts is necessary for the majority of the population in order to prevent blindness or severe visual impairment. Eye surgeons are even able to place tiny artificial lens implants inside the eyes as they operate, restoring vision in older people to a great degree. Because cataract surgery is deemed medically necessary - unlike LASIK - it is covered by most health insurance providers (again, vision insurance doesn't cover this).
A large majority of vision insurance plans will not offer any coverage for LASIK procedures. However, some providers like VSP Individual Vision Plans offers special discounts on LASIK surgery after becoming a member, so savings are still possible even when you decide to sign up for LASIK out-of-pocket.
To better demonstrate the cost benefits of a vision insurance plan, let's take a look at a few different lifestyle scenarios.
Example 1 - Supplemental Vision Insurance for Singles
For the first example, let's look at someone who is single and lives on their own in their 20s. They've depended on contact lenses to see well for most of their life, but lately, their vision has gotten a little blurry even with the correction. It's time for a yearly eye exam and a prescription update. A vision insurance plan like VSP's aforementioned basic package would provide coverage for contact lenses and the annual exam to update the prescription, perfectly suiting this individual's needs. With 12 monthly premiums of $15, plus a $40 exam and lens copay, this person would only spend $220 for the visit and a fresh supply of contact lenses to last the year (assuming the contact lenses do not exceed the plan's $150 spending allowance).
Example 2 - Vision Insurance for Couples
In a second scenario, we'll consider two spouses looking for coverage. One wears glasses all the time, while the other sees fine without correction and just needs an annual exam. Luckily for them, lots of vision insurance plans introduce packages for multiple members at a slightly discounted cost. Rather than pay $30/month for two individual plans, for instance, VSP Individual Vision Plans has a two-person basic package for about $27.26/month, saving roughly $33 by the end of the year. Our couple could enroll in this plan so both can find coverage as it pertains to them. Even if one spouse doesn't end up needing glasses, the vision insurance will still generate worthwhile savings for the exam costs and the glasses-dependent spouse's eyewear purchases.
Example 3 - Vision Insurance for Families
Finally, let's imagine a family of four that needs vision coverage for everyone. Family plans can provide vision insurance to multiple members of the same household at an even greater discount. We’ll estimate that VSP's basic family plan runs $37.25/month, so rather than pay for four individual basic plans (totaling nearly $720 for the year for monthly premiums alone), this family could pay only $447 after 12 months...not to mention all the savings they would experience affording four eye exams and any eyewear that might go along with them. If they attempted to receive all of this routine care without insurance, they would expect to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.