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Best vision insurance in 2020: Comparing individual plans

Couple looking on laptop for the best vision insurance plans

There’s more to individual vision insurance than meets the eye. Individual vision insurance is coverage you can purchase on your own, independent of an employer. 

Plans are loaded with all kinds of terms and coverage options, each with a specific monthly premium and providing a specific level of benefit. So which individual vision insurance plan is best for you?

Only you can weigh the options and decide — it all starts with preparation.

With a little research, you can work your way through the vision insurance maze and come out with the policy that best favors your eyesight and your wallet.

QUESTIONS ABOUT VISION INSURANCE? Contact a provider near you to find out what insurance they accept or recommend.

What to look for in a vision plan:

Monthly premium

The amount you pay for insurance every month naturally varies by company. Most people can expect to pay around $15 or $20 per month for a middle-of-the-road plan, and between $20 and $30 a month for an upper-tier plan.

As significant as monthly premiums might seem, they’re only a small piece of the puzzle.

Customers planning to capitalize on multiple benefits might not see much use from a plan with a low premium. On the flip side, customers with one or two minor (and cheap) optical needs could spend less overall with a low-premium plan.

Glasses OR contact lens allowance

It’s all about the “or” here. Almost all plans give you a choice of one benefit per insured member per calendar year: glasses or contact lenses.

A plan will start with both options, but once you use your allowance to purchase glasses or contacts, you won’t be able to use it again for a full calendar year.

Let’s say your heart is set on a $200 pair of glasses and your plan’s allowance is $150, a common amount offered by insurers. You pay the remaining $50 out of pocket. If you only wear glasses, you’re in the clear.

But if you need to buy glasses and contact lenses, you’re on your own for the contacts. At least for the rest of the year (sometimes two years).

Luckily, modern sites like EyeBuyDirect and Zenni Optical now offer glasses on the cheap, taking most of the out-of-pocket sting off your purchase. Or, if you alternate between contacts and glasses, contact lenses might not cost all that much since you won’t be wearing them every day.

Lens option discounts or allowances

The lens portion of coverage covers single-vision lenses and, often, “lined” bifocals or trifocals. You might find a 15% or 20% discount for progressive lenses, but only higher-priced plans will offer any significant coverage.

Discounts on lens upgrades like scratch-resistant, anti-glare or tinted coatings may also be available.

Network size

Almost all major insurers have large networks of in-network offices and stores, but some are more substantial than others.

If you want to stick with a family eye doctor, give them a call to find out which networks they’re in. This could influence which insurer you sign up with, especially if their benefits are comparable to a competitor’s.

Sometimes networks offer bonuses if you get exams or shop at certain locations. It’s one more thing to consider if you aren’t tied to a certain office or brand, or if you were already planning to shop or schedule there anyway.

SEE ALSO: The timeline and benefits of vision insurance

Individual vision insurance company comparison

Benefits may vary depending on your location, but getting an estimate online is usually quick and easy. Sometimes all you need is a ZIP code.

Visit the insurer website of your choice, find the area that advertises “getting a quote” (sometimes it’s right on the homepage) and enter your ZIP code. This is how you’ll find the comparison chart of that company’s available vision plans.

Note: Each company has made the following information publicly available online. If a detail isn’t listed, that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t offered, only that it wasn’t listed publicly. Complete, up-to-date plan details can be found on each insurer’s website.

Keep in mind that these details relate only to individual vision insurance, not employer-sponsored (group) insurance. 

A few highlights might help you get started:

EyeMed

EyeMed is one of two featured insurance companies that focuses solely on vision benefits. They currently have over 100,000 in-network providers and more than 60 million vision plan members enrolled.

Highlighted features:

  • Low-premium plan that starts at $5.00/mo.

  • Large provider network in more than 48 states. Accepted almost everywhere.

  • No waiting periods (coverage begins immediately after payment).

  • 40% off a second pair of in-network eyeglasses.

  • Instantly apply member benefits on certain partnered websites, such as LensCrafters and Target Optical.

Might be best for: People looking for a low monthly premium option or no waiting periods.

VSP

Like EyeMed, VSP also specializes in vision benefits. They currently enroll more than 88 million members and utilize an additional in-network system called the Premier Program.

Highlighted features:

  • “Premier Program” locations, like Visionworks, can offer substantial savings over non-Premier locations.

  • Largest vision insurer in the U.S. with more than 88 million members worldwide. A large network of eye doctors and optical shops.

  • 20% off glasses or contacts after allowance has been filled.

  • Online shopping through proprietary site Eyeconic. VSP benefits can be automatically applied.

Might be best for: People looking for a large network of stores or doctors. Customers who already shop or get exams at Premier Program locations.

United Healthcare (UHC)

Part of the larger United insurance umbrella, United offers easy access to members already enrolled in United medical, dental or other forms of insurance coverage. As a whole, UHC has more than 27 million people enrolled in its plans.

Highlighted features:

  • “Price protection” on certain lens upgrades.

  • No waiting periods.

  • Can be bundled with UHC dental insurance, which can be bundled with several other forms of insurance.

  • Up to 40% discounts on progressive lenses or tint options.

  • Discounts on extra pairs of glasses and laser vision correction.

Might be best for: People looking for lens upgrades or no waiting periods. Customers looking to bundle other forms of UHC insurance.

Humana

Humana also offers various forms of insurance coverage, including individual vision plans. Other forms of coverage include medical, dental and pharmacy.

Highlighted features:

  • $35 enrollment fee waived if also enrolling in a Humana dental plan.

  • No waiting periods.

  • Potential discounts on lens upgrades and services like LASIK or other laser eye surgery.

  • Often only one vision plan to choose from: Humana Vision PPO.

Might be best for: Current Humana customers or those looking for no waiting periods.

Anthem (Blue View Vision)

Formerly called WellPoint, Anthem now operates as part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Overall, Anthem enrolls about 40 million people in one or more of its coverage plans. Blue View Vision offers an easy option for members of other Anthem services.

Highlighted features:

  • Can be added to any Anthem dental or health insurance plan.

  • Across-the-board $20 exam copays.

  • Free Transitions and polycarbonate lens upgrades for people under 19 years old.

  • 20% discount on upgrades, accessories and non-prescription glasses.

  • Varying discounts on progressive lenses.

Might be best for: People looking to add to a current Anthem plan who live in one of the 14 participating states. People looking for lens option discounts.

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