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How much does LASIK surgery cost in 2020?

In 2020, you can expect LASIK to cost about $2,133 per eye, on average, according to our nationwide survey of reputable laser eye surgery offices. Is that lower than you expected? Higher? Let’s take a look at the many details that affect LASIK costs — and how you can get the most out of every dollar.

Survey: How we categorized LASIK centers

To better understand our results, here's more information on how we categorized the information we gathered:

Category 1: Type of facility

The LASIK facilities surveyed were classified as one of three types of office:

  • Private office (single location) — A surgery center with only one location. Some offices are run by a single surgeon, but many employ multiple surgeons.

  • Private office (multiple locations) — A surgery center with one or more satellite offices in the city or region. These usually have multiple surgeons at each location.

  • Medical center — Part of large medical systems and often affiliated with university health systems. All surgeries are performed by practicing ophthalmologists, not residents or fellows in training.

Category 2: Region

Ten offices were surveyed in each of the following U.S. regions:

  • West

  • Northwest

  • Southwest

  • Midwest

  • Southeast

  • Northeast

Category 3: City size

Our cities came in two straightforward sizes:

  • Big — Cities or suburbs of cities with populations over 250,000.

  • Small — Cities with populations under 100,000.

Takeaways

Now that our calculator is worn out, here’s what we learned:

  • The type of facility didn’t really affect LASIK fees. The difference between the cheapest option (private chain offices, $2,116) and the highest-priced option (medical centers, $2,197) was only $81. Since that’s a difference of less than 4%, we’d consider it a wash.

  • The average cost of LASIK varied by region, but not by much. Only $125 separated the cheapest region (Southwest, $2,042) from the second-most-expensive region (Northeast, $2,167). LASIK surgery in the West region was slightly higher than the rest, averaging $2,235.

  • LASIK was a little more affordable in smaller cities. More competition in big cities can sometimes mean lower prices, but not in this case. On average, LASIK fees were $127 lower in small cities ($2,044) than in big cities ($2,171).

All in all, the average cost for LASIK was surprisingly consistent across the country, considering its size and the freedom facilities have to set their own rates.

In 2019, the market research firm Market Scope determined an average price of $2,246 per eye for laser refractive surgery, a slight bump from $2,199 in late 2018. At $2,133 per eye in 2020, we’re right in the same neighborhood.

$2,133? What about those $249 LASIK specials?

If you haven’t had time to dive into the world of LASIK research, it might seem like laser surgery only sets you back $999, $499 or even $249 per eye.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. When offices advertise rates that low, they may:

  • Up-sell you with higher-priced procedures or additional fees

  • Only qualify patients with near-perfect vision

  • Use outdated procedures or equipment

  • Have lower success rates than other offices in the area

We came across quite a few of these specials, but didn’t include them in our overall average because they don’t apply to most people.

By comparison, seeing low-priced advertisements might make $2,133 per eye seem expensive; but in reality, pricier doctors are more likely to use safer equipment, have higher success rates and disclose all costs upfront.

That doesn’t mean that a more expensive surgeon is automatically a “good” one, or a cheaper surgeon is automatically a “bad” one. This is where your local research and best judgment comes in.

In other words, LASIK cost is only one slice of the pie.

“LASIK is an investment in a patient’s healthy, active lifestyle with excellent vision,” says ophthalmologist Dr. Vance Thompson. “While it is natural to want to get a good deal, the decision to have LASIK shouldn’t be based primarily on price.”

Thompson founded and practices at Vance Thompson Vision, which now has six locations across the northern U.S. He is also a spokesperson for the American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC).

“Each patient — each eye — presents an individual case that may need more or less in terms of treatment, diagnostics, technology and follow-up — all of which can be a factor in the cost of a laser vision correction procedure,” Thompson says.

SEE RELATED: A brief guide to LASIK

Deciding between two types of LASIK

Corrective eye surgery is far from a one-size-fits-all operation. The machines, technologies and procedures a doctor uses to perform LASIK shift from one office to the next.

“The cost of LASIK can vary drastically based on the technology used for the diagnosis, the procedure, the surgeon’s experience and post-operative care provided,” says Dr. Jay Bansal, an ophthalmologist and medical director at LaserVue Eye Center in San Francisco.

“With lower-cost LASIK, some ophthalmologists are still performing the technique where the corneal flap can be made using a blade, versus the most advanced technique which utilizes a femtosecond laser,” Bansal says.

During LASIK surgery, a small flap (called a corneal flap) is created on the front of your eye so a laser can reshape your cornea. This flap is created using one of two methods:

  • Traditional: A surgeon uses a tiny blade called a microkeratome to create the corneal flap.

  • Bladeless: A beam called a femtosecond laser creates the corneal flap. These procedures might also be advertised as blade-free or all-laser.

Most of the offices we surveyed stuck with one method or another, but some offered both forms. In those cases, traditional procedures were indeed priced lower than their bladeless alternatives.

While there’s always been debate among surgeons about the benefits of bladed and bladeless LASIK, most of the facilities we surveyed gravitated toward blade-free technology.

If these factors are important to you or you have questions about the different procedures, we encourage you to talk to a LASIK surgeon. Facilities are usually happy to offer some form of free consultation.

Other factors that cause LASIK costs to fluctuate

While our survey was far from scientific, we picked up plenty of helpful tidbits along the way. Several factors seemed to affect laser eye surgery costs:

  • Different eye measurement methods and how the laser is guided can affect your final cost. Technologies like wavefront can be used to precisely measure the eye before surgery and used to guide the laser during surgery.

  • Occasionally, other procedures are needed after the initial surgery. Offices often call these enhancements. Sometimes these are included in the price of LASIK (within a certain time frame), but other times you’ll pay an additional fee.

  • Different types of femtosecond laser can be used for bladeless LASIK. Newer, more modern lasers can bump up the price.

  • A surgeon’s experience, reputation and success rates usually affect fees in some way. Offices often provide this information on request.

  • Special pricing, such as limited-time offers can affect pricing. The 2019 Market Scope report found that about 29% of facilities offered some form of special pricing, while the remaining 71% stuck with standard pricing. Try to stay mindful of special pricing; it can save you money, but it can sometimes be misleading.

Not everyone is a candidate for LASIK eye surgery. Someone with a secondary condition or vision prescription that puts the outcome at risk may not qualify. In these cases, a different laser eye surgery, such as PRK or LASEK, could be a better option. Check with your eye doctor to find out if anything might stop you from getting LASIK.

… and a few financial tips

To make your LASIK procedure as finance-friendly as possible, here are a few things to remember along the way:

  • In almost all cases, LASIK is classified as an elective procedure and insurance companies rarely provide any coverage. But check with your insurance provider anyway — some offer discounts for using an in-network surgeon or going to a preferred location.

  • If it’s available to you, a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) is a great way to save money with pre-tax dollars. Check the terms of your FSA or HSA before deciding how much to contribute.

  • Many facilities offer third-party financing, but terms and interest rates will vary. Don’t forget to read the fine print!

  • You’re probably very familiar with this by now, but remember that LASIK is almost always priced per eye, since LASIK can be performed on one eye in certain situations.

Here’s one last example for the road:

The highest-priced office we found charged just under $3,000 per eye for LASIK, but it came with all the bells and whistles: A flat fee including a bladeless procedure, a proven surgeon, pre- and post-op appointments, wavefront mapping and guidance, and a year’s worth of enhancements, if needed.

That may sound fantastic to some people, but to others, it might not justify the higher cost. Maybe some of those perks are worth more to you, but not others. Everyone approaches major purchases differently, and that’s okay.

Don’t be afraid to shop around

On the surface, undergoing LASIK eye surgery seems simple enough. But there are umpteen moving parts that go into each procedure, each one presenting something new to consider as a patient.

There are thousands of laser eye surgery offices across the United States, so it’s hard to say exactly how much you can expect to pay for LASIK. As you’ve seen, a lot of it comes down to your personal preferences.

Remember, your two best friends in determining LASIK costs are information — and more information. Shopping around and asking a lot of questions will always work in your favor.

“It is always recommended to get more than one opinion prior to surgery and compare technologies, surgeon experience and post-operative care provided,” Dr. Bansal adds.

Best of luck — may the best surgeon get your business.

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