Vision insurance should play a prominent role in everyone’s health coverage. But even after you’ve decided to invest in your eyes with a good vision plan, figuring out the best way to browse your options and enroll can be a complex task.

Thankfully, having a better grasp on the ins and outs of vision insurance can make your search much easier. Here’s all you need to know about vision insurance enrollment, along with some useful tips that will help you pick the right plan and start benefiting from coverage sooner rather than later.

Why Supplemental Vision Insurance?

You will commonly find that standalone vision insurance is largely a supplemental package to apply for - that is, it provides vision benefits that your main health insurance plan likely misses. These include preventative care for your eyes in the form of routine exams and associated eyewear costs.

Why isn’t vision coverage already included in most health insurance plans? Well, optometry and ophthalmology offer distinct services from one another: Optometrists handle primary medical eye care, including eye medication prescriptions, monitoring and managing eye diseases, and emergency eye care service, while ophthalmologists take care of surgical needs and treatments for serious eye diseases.

It’s due to these differences that the bulk of vision insurance plans come in the form of supplemental coverage, rather than being included in your pre-existing medical insurance plan. More often than not, you’ll need to enroll in a separate plan to get the vision coverage you’re looking for.

What is Open Enrollment?

Open enrollment can be an overwhelming topic, but it doesn’t have to be.

In America, open enrollment is simply a period of time when you are allowed to add, remove, or edit your insurance plans in preparation for the next year. Some qualifying life events (like marriage, a new job, childbirth, etc.) might allow you to choose new coverage decisions immediately, but otherwise, you must wait for the open enrollment window before you can make any adjustments to your insurance.

For most Affordable Care Act health plans, open enrollment occurs late in the year. Although the actual dates will vary by state, open enrollment typically occurs from November to January. Medicare’s open enrollment occurs from October 15th through December 7th every year. Medicaid, on the other hand, has no open enrollment period and is always available.

If you miss an open enrollment period, you will likely need to wait until open enrollment occurs again the following year to make changes to your insurance coverage. If you receive insurance through your employer, they will usually decide on the open enrollment start and end dates.

The majority of supplemental vision insurance plans do not require an open enrollment period, meaning you can apply to them at any time. Be aware that opting for vision insurance through your employer might still have to take place within an open enrollment window.

Vision Insurance Enrollment

How to Enroll in Vision Insurance

Most vision insurance providers will have tools on their websites to help you find the best plans for you and your family. Since rates will normally be different from state to state and amongst different providers, you’ll want to check in with at least a few options before settling on a package that gives you the right benefits for the right price.

For example, VSP Vision Individual Vision Plans has a Plan Wizard that recommends the right plan for you based on your state and what’s most important to you. This quickly gives you the results and information you’re looking for - all that’s left is to make a decision and apply. It also lets you find a doctor near you, whether you’re a member or not.

Vision Insurance Search

Searching for Vision Insurance

So what are some of the best ways to search for vision insurance and find the perfect plan that fits your lifestyle?

While it might be obvious a quick search on the internet will be your best bet, knowing what kind of vision insurance plan you’re looking for requires a bit of foresight to narrow your results. You’ll want to consider all the criteria that will play a role in your vision insurance premiums and choose a plan that you can get the most out of.

Your location is going to be particularly relevant to the insurance plan you find. Some providers like VSP (through VSP Individual Vision Plans) provide nationwide coverage, but others might not offer plans in your state, for your age, or for your living situation. Consider refining your search keywords to include your home state and the number of insured people in your household. That way you can ensure you only see the plans available for your specific conditions.

Don’t forget to also consider the intangible factors when looking for a vision insurance plan that meets your needs. For example, how important is a large doctor network for you, especially if you move to another location? Which plans offer electronic claim handling for easier management of your benefits? How many people in your family will you add to your plan?

VSP Individual Vision Plans offers coverage to suit numerous lifestyles, financial situations, and vision needs. This provider is one of the best places to begin your search for vision insurance coverage that offers the most benefits for the most reasonable rates.