Chances are pretty good you wear glasses or contacts—75% of Americans do, according to a survey by the Vision Council of America. Health insurance doesn’t help pay for them — bummer! — but that’s what vision insurance is for.
Unlike health insurance, you can think of vision insurance a kind of discount plan. Beyond an annual checkup, you hope you never have to use your health insurance. Vision insurance, on the other hand, helps pay for purchases you know you’ll need to make every year or two — and want to make, since your glasses help keep you stylish!
Vision insurance plans offer a set amount of money to put toward the cost of eye exams, glasses and contacts. Most eye care plans don’t have a deductible — meaning you can redeem their value immediately rather than having to pay out of pocket before they kick in — but they also have a benefit maximum. Anything you spend over the allotted benefit amount you’ll have to cover out of pocket.
Vision insurance generally covers eye exams, frames, lenses and contacts. Some plans will cover a certain dollar amount every year, and some every two years. The major vision insurance companies like VSP and Humana also have different arrangements with different retailers, meaning you may get more savings at select partner retailers depending on your plan.
Stop trying to bring transition lenses back — it’s not going to happen, and plus, your vision insurance company won’t cover it. Glasses seem pretty straightforward, but start throwing in the extra bells and whistles (trifocals, progressives, anti-glare, anti-scratch, anti-impact), and things add up fast. Your vision insurance will cover a certain dollar amount for your lenses and frames, but it may fall short if you have a laundry list of extras.
Vision insurance also won’t cover the full cost of elective procedures like LASIK and PRK, though depending on the plan, you could get partial coverage. It also won’t cover the cost of medically necessary eye care like addressing glaucoma and cataracts — your health insurance covers those issues.
Depending on whether you go with Humana One, VSP, or an insurer like Anthem BlueCross, your annual premium will likely range from $90 to $200 per individual. Rates for individuals and families vary along with annual benefit maximums and preferred retail partners, so ask about the details you’re interested in to make sure your plan will fit your needs.
If you’re someone who wants to get new glasses every year or constantly replenishes contacts and you find a plan that has a benefit maximum significantly higher than the premium you pay, vision insurance will likely save you money and is worth the investment. If you just want to get a pair of reading glasses and keep them for five years, you’re probably better off just paying out of pocket.
Either way, before buying, make sure you understand the terms of your vision insurance plan and make sure you’ll be happy shopping within the limits of what the plan offers.