Think of how important you vision is to you. It's no wonder then that vision insurance has become a pretty common part of employment packages.
A 1999 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management shows that the majority (58%) of small businesses (< 100 employees) offers vision insurance. Even if you don't have vision coverage through work, getting vision insurance independtly is usually straight forward and inexpensive.
Like most health insurance plans, vision care plans can vary tremendously. They range from plans that cover just the bare minimum to premium plans that cover high-cost eye treatments such as laser eye surgery (LASIK). In general though, vision plans are not meant to replace an individual’s medical coverage. Only “routine” health issues are generally addressed.
Most plans will cover at least the basics:
- routine eye exams
- prescription eyewear (glasses and contacts)
Routine eye exams typically include:
- A check of internal and external eye health for signs of possible disorders such as cataracts or problems with your retina
- An evaluation of your current prescription (glasses or contact lenses)
- A visual acuity test to check your ability to see clearly at all distances
- A refraction test to determine your eyes' ability to focus light rays on the retina at all distances
- A glaucoma test of your eyes' internal pressure
- A visual coordination test for muscle control
- A test of your eyes' ability to change focus.
source: American Optometric Association
If the routine eye exam uncovers eye problems, the vision plan usually does not cover surgery or other more invasive medical procedures. These are usually left for the individual’s main health insurance plan.
Plans through a managed care organization (HMO, PPO) will generally restrict coverage to in network optometrists and ophthalmologists.
Lastly, many plans are set up as discount plans, where the employer or managed care group has negotiated preferred rates with local providers. The discount provided is usually in excess of 10%, but note, the other 90% is still the responsibility of the patient.
Who Needs Vision Insurance?
Anyone that wears prescription glasses or contact lenses would benefit from a vision insurance plan. Getting cheaper prices on services and corrective lenses that you need anyway is an obvious benefit.
Vision insurance is fairly inexpensive. Expect to pay around $50 per year for an a plan through an HMO or insurance carrier. In addition, many employers will either cover vision insurance as part of your benefits package, or at least contribute 25-50% of the individual's annual premium.
Where Do You Get Vision Insurance?
Your options for buying vision insurance include Managed Care organizations (HMOs/PPOs) or major insurance carriers. There are many different plans and a variety of major insurance carriers as well as minor independent carriers who offer vision coverage. Get several quotes (it’s easiest to do this online) and then do some comparing to get the best price and benefits. Shopping around can often make a big difference in how satisfied your are with the plan you end up choosing.
Check with professional groups or organizations to which you belong to see if they offer it as an association benefit at association rates. You may be able to save yourself some money. And that benefit is clear, no matter what your prescription.
Also, don’t forget to check into the health insurance carrier you use for your primary medical insurance. They can offer vision insurance as part of your health insurance policy, but it may be pretty narrow, covering only the bare minimum -- like routine eye exams.