Your policy may also pay for a portion of these vision correction expenses:
- Eyeglass frames
- Prescription lenses
- Lens enhancements, like lightweight or nonreflective lenses
- Contact lenses
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Vision insurance is optional, and it helps to cover the costs of routine and preventative eye care. It bridges the gap between what your health insurance covers and out-of-pocket costs, and most plans don’t have a deductible you need to reach before receiving benefits. A policy typically offers coverage for routine eye exams, and discounts on glasses and contacts for the roughly 75% of Americans who use vision correction, according to the Vision Council of America.
When you’re shopping around for vision insurance, narrow down your options by asking these questions:
You can expect to pay around $17 per month for an individual vision insurance policy, according to Vision Service Plan (VSP) — the biggest provider in the US. This comes to $204 a year.
You may pay more if you choose a plan with a larger network of eye doctors, or if you live in a state with higher vision insurance rates.
Some insurers charge an enrollment fee when you sign-up, so account for this when considering the total cost of the policy.
Vision insurance usually covers basic preventative care, including annual eye exams and vision tests. Unlike health or dental insurance, vision insurance benefits don’t always reset every 12 months. Your insurer might only pay for a new pair of glasses up to a certain dollar amount or once every 12 to 24 months.
Your policy may also pay for a portion of these vision correction expenses:
Vision insurance is designed to cover key eye-care expenses. It doesn’t apply to these costs:
You can buy vision insurance year-round in most cases, and there are a few ways to get coverage:
Many employers offer vision insurance as part of their workplace benefits package. Your premiums will be subsidized, making this a cost-effective option — but you’ll need to opt in during open enrollment.
Depending on your insurer, you may be able to add coverage for routine eye exams and get an allowance for prescription glasses and contacts. But you might have to meet a deductible to access these vision benefits.
To get the best coverage at the lowest price, take the time to compare policies from a range of vision insurance companies. By going directly through an insurer, you’ll be able to customize your benefits.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you can apply for a low-cost health insurance policy that offers vision coverage through the government. To explore this option, head to Healthcare.gov.
When you sign up for vision insurance, you’ll pay a monthly or annual premium to maintain your coverage — and policies last at least 12 months.
Depending on the plan you have, you may need to pay a small copay when you visit an eye doctor. But vision insurance is unique in that you don’t need to meet a deductible before your insurance company steps in. Instead, your insurer will offer a set amount of money to put towards the costs of preventative eye care — like eye exams — and prescription eyewear. This is known as the benefit amount or allowance.
Every policy has a benefit cap, which is the maximum amount you can spend. If you reach that number, you’ll pay for any other eye care expenses or services out-of-pocket until you renew your policy. So, if your insurer has a $100 allowance for glasses, but you want to buy a pair that costs $400, you’ll pay $300.
Some plans require you to see an in-network doctor, which means your insurance company won’t cover the bill if you go to someone out-of-network. You can find out how flexible your plan is by reading through your policy documents.
Generally, no. But some policies have waiting periods ranging from 30 days to 36 months, which means you’ll receive few to no benefits from your policy during that time.
From an insurer’s perspective, the purpose of the waiting period is to encourage people to buy vision insurance before they have expensive eye care needs.
Most vision insurance policies are set up as PPOs, but HMOs and Indemnity Plans are also available. Their differences come down to costs and flexibility with out-of-network providers.
|Type of plan||How it works||Cost||In-network only||Specialist referrals required||Best for|
|Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO)||Pick any dentist and get discounts for going in-network||No||No||Flexibility and no copays|
|Health Managed Organizations (HMO)||Visits to your primary dentist are covered, though you might need to work or live within the service area||Yes||Yes — your primary dentist will refer you to an in-network specialist||Affordable in-network care|
|Indemnity||Pay the same price for going to any dentist||No||No||See any doctor for a higher cost|
These are the key terms you may come across when shopping for vision insurance:
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. While vision insurance is an inexpensive type of coverage, its value comes down to your eye health and financial situation.
If these situations apply to you, a vision insurance policy could cut the costs of your eye care significantly:
On the other hand, you may not have as much of a need for vision insurance in these cases:
These are the average costs for common eye care services, according to Fair Health and VSP. This will give you an idea of how much you could save with vision insurance.
|Basic single vision lenses||$113|
|Refractive vision test||$46|
If vision insurance isn’t the right fit, consider these alternatives:
An optional policy, vision insurance can help to offset the expenses of eye care and services — like eye exams, glasses and contact lenses. The coverage is on the cheaper side, but if you have healthy eyes and don’t need prescription eyewear, you may be able to skip it.
If you’re interested in vision insurance, compare policies to get the coverage you need at an affordable price.
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