Is Vision Insurance Worth It? A Not-So-Clear Choice | Photo of woman's green eyes | Photo by Evan Sachs

Evan Sachs

Is Vision Insurance Worth It? A Not-So-Clear Choice

•  3 minute read

Vision insurance could save you money, or it could be a complete waste, depending on your situation.

Way back when I was just starting elementary school, I found out I had to wear glasses. Those days, I was more concerned about what the other kids in school would think of the glasses than about the hard-earned money my parents had spent on them.

Every year or so after that, I’d go to the eye doctor, have my eyes examined, and get a new pair of glasses with an updated prescription. Eventually, I figured out glasses cost money, but I still didn’t concern myself about the costs.

 

My First Experience With Vision Insurance

Then I started my first postcollege job. I was handed a packet about my employee benefits, including vision insurance, for which I could choose to pay a small fee out of every paycheck.

Since I wore glasses, I decided to buy the insurance, but I didn’t really consider whether the plan would save me money.

Today, I cringe that I didn’t look into it more deeply to see if vision insurance was worth it.

Thankfully it didn’t cost more than a few dollars per paycheck. Besides, I used this vision insurance. I went to the closest eye doctor that accepted it, got an exam, and purchased a pair of glasses. I wanted to make sure I used my benefits.

 

My Next Vision Insurance Decision

After a year, I started a new job and once again had to decide if I wanted to purchase vision insurance. This time I passed, as I’d bought new glasses the year before.

My eyeglass prescription doesn’t change much and I’m not rough on glasses, so I figured I could skip at least one year of insurance. It turned about to be a wise decision, as I didn’t go to the eye doctor or purchase new glasses that year.

So I’d never really run the numbers on my vision budget until this past year, when I was added to my wife’s vision insurance.

 

My Vision Insurance Calculations

Based on my wife’s benefits, vision insurance for both of us would cost $152.36 per year. If we’d had to purchase vision insurance ourselves without her coverage, it would cost $300 per year for both of us.

My wife and I planned to get an eye exam. My wife wears contacts, so she’d have to have a contact fitting exam and use her allowance for contacts. I planned to buy new glasses.

Below are the out-of-pocket costs for these services if we didn’t have insurance, as well as our total cost with my wife’s insurance and how much our costs would have been if we had to buy insurance on the open market.

Out of Pocket Work Insurance Market Insurance
2 Exams $90 $0 $30
Contact Fitting Exam $80 $80 $80
Wife’s Contacts $150 $20 $30
My Frames $99 $20 $20
My Lenses $99 $69 $99
Anti-Glare Coating $59 $59 $59
Cost of Insurance $0 $152 $300
Total Cost $577 $400 $618

 

Is Vision Insurance Worth It, After All? Our Conclusion

Based on the numbers above, you can see we saved $177 by buying vision insurance through my wife’s work. However, if we had to buy it on the open market, we would have paid $41 more than if we had just paid out of pocket.

This is why it is important that you run the numbers. If you’re buying on the open market, compare your options using tools like BestObamaCare. And as part of your calculations, make sure to consider how much you’ll use your plan. If you go just one year without using insurance that you’re paying for, you stand to lose even more money.

 

One Last Warning: Beware Limited Network Options

Among other things, we looked at carefully the eye doctors that took my wife’s vision insurance. In the past, we’ve had employers that offered vision insurance, but only one eye doctor in our town would accept it. That provider didn’t have a very good selection of glasses.

Make sure your vision insurance has providers with a decent selection close to you. Also check to see if online sellers such as ContactsDirect work with your insurance. Otherwise, you might end up paying for vision insurance that you’ll never use.