What is the Best Vision Insurance?

Cathy Jakicic
February 14th, 2020 January 14th, 2020 |
Read time: 5 minutes

The “best” vision insurance depends on your unique needs. And like other types of insurance, the best coverage is that which you will actually use. There are a number of factors to consider when shopping for the best vision insurance for you, including:

  • Does your employer offer vision insurance?
  • How often will you use the benefits?
  • Is your current eye care provider in the policy’s network?
  • Would a vision benefits plan, a discount plan or something else be a better fit?

We’ll look at each question in more detail below.

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Does your employer offer vision insurance?

If you have access to employer-sponsored insurance, that may be the best option for you. It may be easy to enroll in along with the rest of your employer-sponsored benefits and your employer could be paying a portion of your premium.

You can expect to pay somewhere between $5 and $15 a month in premiums with an employer’s vision benefits. (By comparison you might be able to find a plan for less than $20 per month for an individual or around $40 for a family).[1] Even if your premiums are at the high end of the employer-sponsored range, you may still get enough value from the coverage by participating in one covered annual exam.

The average cost of a comprehensive eye exam varies, but can be around $150-$170.[2] And if you do need glasses or contacts, having the insurance will help with out-of-pocket costs.[3] A pair of glasses (frames and lenses) every other year can be another $200-300.[4]

How often will you use the benefits?

Another important consideration is whether or not you’ll use the coverage enough to get value from it, especially if you’re paying for a plan on your own. In fact, it’s such an important consideration that we have a whole separate blog post about whether or not vision insurance is worth it.

Basically, if you don’t think you’ll use the benefits, there may not be a “best” vision insurance out there for you – you may just be able to go without.

On the other hand, you may want to get vision insurance if you:

  • Need glasses or contacts
  • Are experiencing age-related vision changes
  • Have a chronic health condition (such as diabetes) that can affect your vision
  • Have a family history of eye disease

All of these situations may affect how often you need vision care, which may, in turn, inform which vision insurance might be best for you.[5]

Is your current eye care provider in the policy’s network?

If you currently have an eye doctor you like, a vision insurance policy that allows you to stick with them may be the most comfortable choice.

Not only will they be more familiar with your eye health history, you may be more inclined to speak openly and honestly with someone you know.[6]

If you don’t currently have an eye care provider, you’ll want to be sure your policy includes access to providers that are convenient to access, both in terms of their location and hours.

Eye care providers fall into three main categories:[7]

Optometrist: An eye doctor who has earned the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree. They examine eyes for both vision and health problems, and can prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses and medications for certain conditions. Some optometrists also provide low-vision care and therapy.

Ophthalmologist: A medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). They can perform eye exams, diagnose and treat disease, eyeglasses, contact lenses and medications and perform eye surgery. One easy way to understand the difference: an optometrist’s training level is similar to a general dentist and an ophthalmologist are more similar to that of an oral surgeon.

Optician: Not an eye doctor, but can use the prescriptions written by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist to sell and fit eyeglasses and other eyewear.

If you already have a medical eye issue such as glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts, or have a family history of an eye condition, check to see if the policy offers access to the appropriately trained specialist.[8]

Comparing Vision Insurance Plans to Find the Best One

When comparing vision insurance plans, finding the right one for you may mean going beyond deciding whether the benefits you’ll need will justify the premiums.

Office Visit Copays: Different benefits plans will often have different copay levels. Your copays could be $10 for an eye exam and $25 for a contact lens fitting. Glasses and contact lenses themselves may not have a copay, but their cost is usually capped at a certain amount, which can vary depending on your coverage.[9]

Glasses Frames: If you’re likely to be happy with basic frames a policy with a lower cap and lower premiums may be sufficient. But if you have your eye on more expensive designer frames, a vision plan with a higher monthly premium may be a better value.

If you’re likely to want lens enhancements (anti-glare or scratch-resistance), be sure to verify at which level each plan covers them.

Other important questions to ask when comparing policies include:[10]

  • What will I pay if I go out of network?
  • Are pre-existing conditions covered?
  • Is there a waiting period before some or all of my benefits kick in?
  • Are prescription sunglasses covered?
  • How are bifocal or trifocal lenses covered?
  • Is the frame allowance annual or every two years?
  • Is the contacts allowance annual or every two years?
  • Are frame adjustments covered between exams?

Comparing Benefits Plans, Discount Plans + Paying Out of Pocket

Vision discount plans

If you don’t think you need the annual (or semi-annual) benefits of vision insurance, a discount plan may be a better fit.

With a vision discount plan, you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee to become eligible for discounted rates for services from participating providers.[11]

Unlike with insurance, you pay the service provider directly rather than submitting a claim through an insurance company, and there are no deductibles, copays or coinsurance.[12]

Pay out of pocket, use HSA or FSA funds

If your vision care needs are minimal, you may want to simply pay out of pocket. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) you may be able to use those funds toward routine vision care.[13]

An HSA and FSA can also be used along with vision benefits or discount plans to pay for what the plans don’t cover – but be sure to check whether the accounts’ funds can be used for vision care before you decide.

Summary + Next Steps

When looking for the best vision insurance policy for you and your family, there are a number of factors to consider:

  • Can you get vision coverage through your employer?
  • How often will you use the benefits?
  • Is your current eye care provider in the policy’s network?
  • Would a benefits plan, a discount plan or something else be a better fit?

Have questions? Call 888-855-6837 to speak with an insurance agent to discuss your options for vision insurance.

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