You’ve had 20/20 vision your whole life. The only times you’ve worn glasses were a single Halloween and that stretch of months a while ago when everyone wore fake hipster glasses. (No shame — we’ve all been part of at least one unfortunate trend.)
Recently, though, it’s been getting harder to read street signs or small print on your phone. It might be time to schedule an eye exam and even pick up some prescription glasses or contacts. That all sounds easy enough. But how do you pay for it? Here’s how to get vision insurance.
When Vision Insurance Can Come in Handy
Routine eye care is not typically covered under your major medical plan, but vision insurance can cut the expense of seeing an optometrist drastically, covering or reducing eye care expenses in exchange for a small monthly premium. More than 75 percent of American adults wear some kind of vision correction, so it’s more likely than not that you’ll need glasses or contacts at some point in your life — which means getting vision insurance might be a smart move.
Even if you’re not squinting to read restaurant menus yet, regular eye exams can reveal health problems like glaucoma or early diabetes. If you have a family history of eye conditions, or even if you just want to stay on top of your health, having an insurance plan in your back pocket can give you peace of mind.
Depending on your specific plan, vision insurance may pay for part or all of:
- Preventive eye exams
- Eyeglass frames
- Eyeglass lenses
- Contact lenses
- LASIK surgery
How to Get Vision Insurance
There’s a chance your employer offers vision insurance, so start by checking your benefits package. Keep in mind that you might have to wait for your company’s open enrollment period to sign up. If you can’t obtain coverage through work, you can find low-cost vision plans directly through health insurance carriers and on state and government exchanges. Some plans run as low as under $20 per month, and many are offered alongside dental insurance, so if you’re in the market for both types of coverage, you may be able to combine the two. You can pay for group vision insurance from work through payroll deduction or a flexible spending account, which allows you to save money by paying for medical expenses with pretax income. For individual plans, you’ll be billed a monthly premium.
Besides vision insurance, which pays some portion of eye care benefits and eyewear within a fixed dollar amount in exchange for monthly premiums, discount vision plans also are available. A discount vision plan provides eye care and eyewear at discounted rates from specific providers after an annual premium or membership fee — but keep in mind that it’s not insurance. Read your policy thoroughly and make sure you understand the difference.
What to Look for in a Vision Insurance Plan
Determining how to get vision insurance is fairly simple, when it comes down to it. Understanding what each policy covers is trickier. Here are a few questions to ask as you look at plans.
Is there a waiting period? If you need an eye exam soon, check that whatever vision plan you’re considering getting will allow you to see an optometrist shortly after enrolling.
- How often will you receive allowances for new frames or lenses? Most plans only allow you to pick up a new prescription every year or two.
- Can you see the eye professional of your choice? Some plans might require you to find a new provider if your current one is outside of your network.
- What kind of allowance is there for contact lenses? Decide what kind of contact you prefer — daily disposables, hard lenses, extended wear, and so on — and confirm that they’re covered under your plan.
Signing up for vision insurance is an investment in your eye health. When you visit the optometrist, set yourself up to leave the appointment with a shiny new pair of glasses — not with a huge bill.