When it comes to taking charge of your overall health and wellness, sometimes your eyes might get... overlooked. But caring for your eyes should be top priority — in fact, routine eye exams can be helpful in the early detection of signs of other health conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes. So even if you and your kids proudly boast perfect sight, it’s still important to schedule a visit with your eye doctor annually.
However, your eye care needs are not usually covered by your major medical health insurance or Medicare. For these services, you’ll need a vision insurance plan to help greatly reduce the cost of your annual visit, eyeglasses or contacts, and even if you elect to undergo laser vision correction surgery. It may sound like a no-brainer, but here’s where it can get tricky: not all vision plans are created equal — and not everyone has the same reason for choosing coverage.
If you’re stuck on finding the right vision plan as an individual or family, we’ve rounded up a handy guide of important questions to ask yourself when searching for that perfect plan.
Why do I need a vision insurance plan?
If you’ve ever shopped around for eyeglasses before, you know they come with a hefty price tag. But, vision insurance is so much more than just scoring savings on prescription lenses and frames. You get affordable access (hello, $15 co-pays) to professionals and equipment that will help prevent or correct any eye problems, a better understanding of the overall state of your health, and, of course, a trendy pair of frames at a lower cost (or contacts!).
The health and financial savings you get with vision coverage are worth looking into — you could be saving over $400 annually! And if you have a big family and any of you need glasses or contacts, the savings could likely be even more.
What kind of vision insurance plans are available?
If your employer does not offer vision coverage as a benefit, or if you are self-employed, you might be wondering what your options are when it comes to eye care. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of vision coverage options available: vision benefits plans and discount vision plans.
Vision benefits plans are comparable to your health insurance plans — you pay a monthly premium, and get coverage for certain services and needs, like annual eye exams, frames, contacts, and lenses. You usually have to pay a small fee (called a co-pay) and pick up the tab on what your frame allowance did not cover, but these expenses are minimal when you compare to paying out-of-pocket. Vision benefits plans are usually set up as a PPO, or a Preferred Provider Organization, so if you choose to stay in-network, you’ll see the greatest amount of savings.
Discount vision plans have a much lower monthly cost than the premium you’d pay for a vision benefit plan, but you have to pay more for your annual exams, lenses, and other products. Typically, you’ll see a discount of 15% to 35% with a discount plan.
One plan is not necessarily better than the other — it all comes down to your personal situation and need for eye care.
Choosing the right individual vision insurance plan
If you’re just looking into vision insurance for yourself, the first thing you should do is take into account your vision needs, and vision history. Ask yourself:
Do you need eyeglasses or contacts?
How much have you spent on vision care over the past few years?
Do you have a history of eye-related diseases in your family?
If an unexpected eye-related expense arises, how much money do you have saved to cover the cost?
Do you have high blood pressure? (Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the walls of blood vessels throughout the body — including your retina, or the tissue in the back of your eye. Without proper treatment, this can lead to blurred vision or dizziness.)
You know your eyes and health needs best. So if you’ve always had perfect vision, choosing a discount plan to save on your annual eye exam might be the better option. Or, alternatively, if you need glasses or contacts, a vision benefits plan can help you see significant savings. Taking the time to assess your personal situation is key, because choosing the wrong plan could actually end up costing you more money in the long run!
Choosing the right family vision insurance plan
If you have a family (and especially young children), there are a few more factors to consider when it comes to choosing a plan. Annual eye exams are an important component to a child’s health and development, so it’s crucial to make these visits a priority. The American Optometric Association recommends that young children without identified sight issues get eye exams at age 6 months, 3 years, and before first grade. If a vision problem is detected, they should visit the eye doctor annually. Since nearly 80% of what children learn is visual, blurred or poor vision can have an effect on schoolwork, sports, and more — and eyeglasses or contacts can help them succeed.
Here are some other concerns to think about:
You and your spouse’s medical history and eye-related needs
How many children you have (and if they show signs of developing vision-related problems)
Your children’s medical history
If an unexpected eye-related expense arises for you or anyone in your family, how much money do you have saved to cover the cost?
Finding a vision insurance plan that works
Once you factor in your personal or family history, your finances, and your overall eye care needs, it will be that much easier to start searching for a plan that best fits your situation. When you start comparing plans, you should also take into consideration:
If your current or preferred eye doctor is in-network
How much you can get reimbursed for out-of-network services
The deductible amount you have to pay before coverage kicks in
The plan’s frame, lens, or contact allowance
No two vision plans are created equal, and there’s a lot to consider before deciding on a plan that’s right for you and your family. Be sure to thoroughly read the terms of the policies you’re looking at, but with this handy guide in mind, you’re on your way to seeing big savings — and a clearer look into your health.