Best vision insurance plan for you in 2021
There’s more to vision insurance than meets the eye. Vision insurance plans are loaded with all sorts of terms and coverage options, each with a specific monthly premium and providing a specific level of benefit. Which one will be the best vision insurance plan for you?
With a little research, you can work your way through the eye insurance maze and come out with the policy that best favors your eyesight and your wallet.
What to watch for in a vision insurance plan
The amount you can expect to pay for vision insurance every month will vary by company. Most people can expect to pay between $10 and $20 per month for a middle-of-the-road plan, and between $20 and $30 a month for an upper-tier plan.
If your employer offers vision insurance, your premiums can be as low as a couple dollars per paycheck.
But, as important as 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 opposite side, customers with one or two minor (and cheaper) optical needs might spend less overall with a low-premium plan.
SEE RELATED: Can I use an HSA or FSA to pay for premiums?
Glasses OR contact lens allowances
It’s all about the “or.” 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 some of the out-of-pocket sting out of your purchase.
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.
SEE RELATED: Does vision insurance cover sunglasses?
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.
Individual vision insurance company comparison
Individual vision insurance is coverage you can purchase on your own, independent of an employer. 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 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.
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.
Might be best for: People looking for a low monthly premium option or no waiting periods.
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.
“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.
Part of the larger UnitedHealth Group insurance umbrella, United offers easy access to members already enrolled in UnitedHealthcare medical, dental or other forms of insurance coverage. As a whole, UHC has more than 27 million people enrolled in its plans.
“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: Seniors who need progressive lenses or people looking for other lens upgrades or no waiting periods. Customers looking to bundle other forms of UHC insurance.
Humana also offers various forms of insurance coverage, including individual vision plans. Other forms of coverage include medical, dental and pharmacy.
$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.
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. Seniors and those looking for lens option discounts.
Using an FSA or HSA with vision insurance
Health care FSAs and HSAs allow you to pay for eligible health expenses, including many vision expenses, using tax-free dollars from your paychecks. Since your contributions aren’t taxed, you’ll save around 30 cents on every dollar you deposit — as long as you spend it by the end of the year. Funds are automatically withdrawn from your paychecks in equal amounts throughout the account year, but you can access your full contribution amount at the beginning of the year.
An FSA or HSA can even be stacked with your vision insurance benefits, so your insurance will reduce the cost of an expense, which is reduced even more by pre-tax HSA or FSA dollars.
SEE RELATED: Difference between an HSA and FSA
Page updated March 2021