The timeline and benefits of vision insurance
You just signed up for vision insurance and are ready to see the optometrist and order new glasses, but is your coverage effective immediately?
Some vision insurance companies allow you to start using benefits the day after enrollment, while others have a waiting period of at least 30 days.
Why the wait? Some vision insurance providers don't want people waiting to sign up until they have a potentially expensive eye care concern.
There are plenty of vision insurance plans with no waiting periods, so there’s no need to delay scheduling an eye exam or buying a pair of glasses or contacts.
PUT YOUR NEW VISION INSURANCE TO GOOD USE: Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you.
Is it worth it to get vision insurance?
The average yearly eye exam costs around $200, but you either pay nothing or a small copay if you have vision insurance. If you need or already wear glasses or contact lenses, your vision insurance can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your eyewear.
But is vision insurance worthwhile if you don't wear glasses, contacts and have no preexisting vision problems or family history of eye disease? The $10 to $20 a month you pay in vision insurance premiums might be better spent elsewhere.
With no vision issues, you may find it's cheaper to pay for eye exams out of pocket and only when necessary.
However, if you are visually impaired, are over 55 and have poor vision, have a family history of eye disease or a health condition, you may need more frequent eye exams.
For many people, vision insurance can translate into real savings.
What is covered by vision insurance?
What's covered by your vision insurance depends on your particular plan. Vision insurance typically covers eye exams and pays a portion of costs for new eyeglass lenses and frames and contact lenses.
Many vision insurance plans also provide discounts on elective vision correction surgery, such as LASIK.
In most cases, the higher your vision insurance premium, the more coverage options, and the less you’ll pay out of pocket for qualifying eye care products and services.
How do I enroll in vision insurance?
You’ll typically have an option to select group vision insurance through an employer, professional association or a government program like Medicare or Medicaid.
If you don’t qualify for any of these options, you can purchase an individual plan directly from a vision insurance company.
What types of vision insurance are available?
Vision care comes in one of two general offerings: vision benefits plans and discount vision plans.
A vision benefits plan is similar to other insurance policies. You pay a monthly premium and are charged a copay when you purchase services. Most vision benefits plans are set up as a preferred provider organization (PPO), in which you are given a list of in-network providers. You pay extra if you get eye care out of the network.
Additionally, when it comes to products, such as eyeglass frames, your vision insurance provider may set a spending limit. If your frames cost more than that limit, you pay the additional cost yourself.
While vision plans don’t typically cover elective surgeries, such as LASIK, they may offer a discount.
A discount vision plan costs less than what you would pay for a vision benefit plan but generally provides the same products and services. However, coverage of costs is less extensive.
What is a vision discount plan? These programs provide discounts for vision services at certain eye care providers. This means you pay for your eye care out of pocket but at a discounted rate.
When weighing whether to sign up for vision insurance or a discount vision plan, calculate how much you have spent on eye care and eyewear over the past few years. If the total isn't that much, then a discount vision plan is your better option.
However, if you find yourself spending more than a couple of hundred dollars a year, then you might want to choose a vision insurance plan.
As you factor in monthly premiums, don’t overlook copays. Calculate the actual monthly costs of your prospective plan. And don’t forget about deductibles. If your vision insurance plan has a deductible, then you will pay for your eye care out of pocket before coverage starts.
TIME TO SEE AN EYE DOCTOR? Find an eye doctor near you who accepts your vision insurance and book an eye exam.
Page published in April 2020
Page updated in March 2022