How Much Is An Eye Exam Without Insurance?

Cathy Jakicic
February 14th, 2020 January 16th, 2020 |
Read time: 5 minutes

Even if you have perfect vision and don’t need glasses or contacts, getting regular eye exams may help you maintain good eye health. How?

According to 2015 data (the most recent available), almost 4% of the U.S. population had some form of vision loss or impairment (near or far-sightedness or blindness). And the chances of needing vision care increases as you age.[1]

Early detection and intervention, such as corrective lenses, can help prevent avoidable vision loss, according to the National Eye Institute.[2]

In the remainder of this blog post we’ll discuss:

  • How often to get your eyes examined
  • How much an eye exam costs without insurance
  • What is typically included in an eye exam
  • Where to get an eye exam

How often do you need an eye exam?

Regular eye exams can help detect eye problems early and allow your eye care provider to help you address any vision changes.[3]

The Mayo Clinic recommends the following frequency for adult eye exams:

  • Adults ages 20-39 every 5-10 years
  • Adults ages 40-54 every 2-4 years
  • Adults ages 55-64 every 1-3 years
  • Adults 65+ every 1-2 years[4]

For children, a comprehensive eye exam is recommended at about 6 months. After that, exams at age 3 and just before they start school are a good idea. School age children should get eye exams every two years, unless they need corrective lenses – then annual exams are suggested.[5]

People with poor vision, a family history of eye disease or a condition that increases their risk of eye disease, such as diabetes, should have more frequent exams.[6]

When deciding whether or not you need vision insurance, a logical place to start is by comparing the cost of premiums to the cost of eye exams.

What does an eye exam cost without insurance?

A routine eye exam costs about $155. If it’s a new-patient eye exam, it could cost $250. A refractive vision test (to see if you need glasses or contacts) is usually $60.[7]

These are averages, so you’ll want to call around to local providers to get specific pricing in your area.

Do you need vision coverage?
If you have medical benefits through your employer, validate whether or not you also have vision coverage before enrolling in an individual policy.

ACA Plans: some ACA major medical plans include vision coverage for adults, but stand-alone vision insurance plans are not available directly from the federal or state marketplaces. All ACA major medical plans include vision coverage for children.[8]

Remember, traditional Medicare does not cover routine eye exams, glasses or contacts. Medicare Part B does cover glaucoma tests, macular degeneration tests and treatment and eye exams if you have diabetes.[9]

If you need vision insurance you can get your own individual policy for about $10 to $25 per month.[10] Learn how to get the best vision insurance for you.

Where can you get an eye exam?

You can get a routine eye exam in a number of places, and where you go may impact how much you pay.

You can get an eye exam at:[11]

  • An eye doctor’s office (optometrist, ophthalmologist)
  • The eye department of a medical clinic
  • An optical retailer that also offers eye exams by an optometrist (e.g., LensCrafters, Costco)

An eye doctor’s services in an office will often cost more than the exam you’d get at a discount retail provider. An eye exam conducted by a private optometrist cost an average of $192 in 2018.[12]

By comparison, eye exam costs start at $75 at Walmart, $70 at Costco or $73 at LensCrafters. If you have a history of vision issues, it may be a good idea to have your eye exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, even if it costs a bit more.[13]

What is included in an eye exam?

When checking the cost of the exam, be sure to find out what’s included. A low-cost eye exam may indicate a more basic exam – with the “extras” coming with additional fees.[14]

A comprehensive eye exam should include:

  • A review of your personal and family health history
  • A review of any history of eye problems
  • Checking your vision with an eye chart
  • Checking for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism
  • Near vision testing to determine if you need progressive lenses
  • Checking your eyes’ ability to work together
  • An eye pressure test and examination of the optic nerve to rule out glaucoma
  • Examination of the interior of your eyes to rule out issues such as cataracts and macular degeneration[15]

Contact lens exams typically include additional tests and procedures.

Vision Discount Programs
A vision discount plan may be an alternative to vision insurance or having to pay for an eye exam on your own.

With a vision discount plan you pay a monthly or yearly fee to gain access to discounted services, like eye exams, that are offered by participating providers.

There are no deductibles, copays or coinsurance. In fact, you pay your service provider directly after they charge you a discounted rate.

Summary + Next Steps

Paying for an eye exam without insurance may be affordable for many, especially since eye exams generally don’t need to be performed as routinely as other preventive healthcare.

A routine eye exam costs, on average, around $155.[16] However, you should call around to providers near you to get more accurate pricing for your area.

If you need more vision care, are experiencing age-related vision changes, or have a history of eye disease in your family, you may want to obtain vision insurance rather than pay for your vision care out of pocket.

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

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