Do you have vision insurance? Many Americans are surprised to learn that their health insurance doesn’t cover vision-related expenses. A lot of people receive vision coverage through their employer-sponsored health insurance but adult vision benefits aren’t considered an “essential benefit” by the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) regulations. This means that if you have a private insurance plan, you likely don’t have adult vision coverage on your plan.
It’s never been easier to find an affordable vision insurance plan online. We’ll take a look at what is and isn’t covered by vision insurance and how you can get coverage. We’ll also take a look at some of the best vision insurance providers that offer affordable plans online.
The Cheapest Vision Insurance:
- Best Overall for Vision: VSP
- Best for Quick Coverage: Humana
- Best for Combination Vision and Dental Insurance: Anthem
- Best for Glasses and Contact Wearers: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for Discount Plans: EyeBenefits
What Does Vision Insurance Usually Cover?
Vision insurance helps cover a portion of vision-related expenses like eye exams and glasses. You can get vision insurance through your employer-sponsored health insurance or you can buy an independent vision insurance plan.
Here’s how vision insurance works. Each month, you’ll pay your insurance provider a flat-rate fee to maintain your coverage. This is called your premium and you need to pay it every month, even if you don’t use your benefits.
Unlike health insurance and dental insurance plans, most vision insurance plans don’t include a deductible that you need to meet before you can start using your benefits. You can typically begin receiving vision care as soon as you enroll in a plan and pay your first premium. Most vision insurance plans include a few different types of benefits. Here are a few of the most common benefits you might see on your plan:
- Eye exams: Most vision insurance plans include coverage for one eye exam every 12 months. When you receive your annual exam, you’ll typically only need to pay your copay. For example, let’s say that your optometrist charges $150 for an eye exam and your vision insurance plan has a $25 copay. In this situation, you’d pay your optometrist $25 when you receive your exam and your insurance provider would cover the remaining $125.
- Eyeglass lenses: Most vision plans also include a copay for eyeglasses lenses. Your insurance may or may not include separate co-pays for lens extras like anti-glare coating and light-to-dark tinting.
- Eyeglasses frames or contact lenses: Your vision insurance plan will typically include an annual or biannual allowance for either eyeglasses frames or contact lenses. Your allowance is the maximum amount your insurance will pay toward your frames or contacts. You can spend over your allowance but you’ll need to cover the remainder after you hit your maximum. For example, if your insurance plan includes a $150 allowance for frames but you want a pair that costs $200, you’ll pay the remaining $50 above your allowance for the frames.
- LASIK: Your vision insurance may or may not include a discount for LASIK corrective surgery.
Vision insurance is not a substitute for health insurance, nor does it cover every eye-related illness, treatment or condition. As a general rule, you should only expect to have coverage for the specific benefits listed in your plan terms. Here are a few examples of things that aren’t covered by vision insurance:
- Scheduled surgery for vision-related conditions like cataracts.
- Emergency surgery after an accident.
- Treatment for vision-related conditions like glaucoma.
- Eye exams as a preventive treatment for individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions.
The bottom line? Though a vision insurance plan can be integral in saving money on your vision care costs, you still need health insurance to cover more intensive treatments and optic needs.
What is the Average Cost?
A vision insurance plan can help you pay less for eye exams, glasses and contact lenses. The average policyholder saves about $270 per year with a VSP plan, the largest vision insurance provider in the United States. Let’s take a look at what you might expect to pay for vision care without insurance.
Average Basic Vision Care Expenses
How to Get Covered
Think getting vision insurance might be right for you? You can start comparing plans and get enrolled online. Here’s how to get coverage:
- Step 1: Compare vision insurance plans. Every vision insurance plan isn’t equally useful. Compare vision insurance plans from a few different providers in your area. Look at things like inclusions, allowances, networks, copays and premiums before you choose a plan.
- Step 2: Enroll online. Most vision insurance companies now allow you to enroll in a plan online. Follow your insurance provider’s directions to get enrolled. You’ll typically need to provide some personal information (like your address and phone number) before you can get covered.
- Step 3: Pay your first month’s premium. Your coverage won’t go into effect until you pay your first month’s premium. Pay for your coverage online when you enroll.
- Step 4: Start using your benefits. Check your plan’s specifics and view your coverage start date. After your coverage begins, start using your plan benefits.
Here are a few things to consider before you enroll in a vision insurance plan.
- Your copays and premiums: One of the first things that you’ll want to look at when you search for an affordable vision insurance plan is your copay rate and monthly premium. Choose a plan with affordable rates to get the most out of your coverage.
- The number of people on your plan: Some vision insurance providers allow you to add spouses or children to your plan. Remember that if you purchase a family plan, you’ll need to pay your copay for each member of your family each time he or she receives a service.
- Contact and frame allowances: Do you wear contact lenses and glasses? Most vision insurance plans only include an allowance for either glasses or contact lenses. If you need both, make sure you choose a plan that includes a separate allowance for each.
- Additional discounts: Most vision insurance plans only include coverage for one pair of eyeglasses frames every 12 to 24 months. However, your plan may offer a percentage-based discount on additional frames. If you want to buy more than one pair of frames, look for a plan with a higher discount on additional pairs.
The Cheapest Vision Insurance Companies
Now that you understand the basics of vision insurance, let’s take a look at a few of our favorite insurance providers offering affordable coverage options.
1. VSP: Best Overall
VSP is the largest vision insurance provider in the United States — about 1 in every 4 people who have vision insurance gets coverage through VSP. VSP has a massive network of independently-certified doctors. Over 36,000 professionals operate around the country. Plans are available from just $13 a month in most parts of the country and include lens copays from $25 and exam copays from $15. VSP is our top choice for coverage nearly everywhere in the country. It offers exceptionally affordable plan choices for affordable vision insurance.
2. Humana: Best for Quick Coverage
Want quick vision insurance coverage without spending hours comparing plans? Consider a plan from Humana. Unlike other vision insurance providers, Humana only offers a single tier of coverage. However, its plan is simple, straightforward and exceptionally affordable. Coverage is available in many parts of the country from just $14 a month and includes $15 copays for exams. Humana doesn’t currently offer vision insurance in every state but its a reliable choice for affordable plan options in most places.
3. Anthem: Best for Combination Vision and Dental Insurance
You might need both dental and vision insurance if you have an independent health insurance plan. If this is the case, consider a combination plan from Anthem. Anthem offers combination vision and dental plans across the United States for as little as $36 a month. Dental and vision plans from Anthem include low copays (as little as $10 per visit) and a $130 annual frame or contact allowance. You can limit your search by choosing a simple plan from Anthem if you’re searching for both kinds of coverage.
4. UnitedHealthcare: Best for Glasses and Contact Wearers
You might have trouble finding a vision insurance plan that offers a separate allowance for both contacts and eyeglasses. UnitedHealthcare’s Vision Plan B offers an affordable way to get coverage for both a pair of eyeglasses and an order of lenses once every 12 months. Vision Plan B packages are also very low cost and start from just $16 a month with $10 copays for both exams and eyeglasses lenses.
5. EyeBenefits: Best for Discount Plans
EyeBenefits isn’t technically a vision insurance provider because it doesn’t make payments directly to your doctor or vision care provider. Instead, EyeBenefits gives you access to percentage discounts on frames, lenses, exams and even LASIK surgeries from in-network EyeBenefits partners. When you sign up with EyeBenefits, you pay a flat yearly rate as low as $30 in lieu of a monthly premium. Depending on the provider you choose, you can save anywhere from 10% to 30% on regular services and up to 50% on LASIK. EyeBenefits’ coverage might not be as comprehensive as companies like VSP and UnitedHealthcare, but it does offer an incredibly affordable way for anyone to lower vision care expenses.
Find Affordable Vision Insurance
Getting a supplemental vision insurance plan doesn’t have to a major cut into your household budget. The key to finding affordable insurance is to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to compare plans before you choose an option. Get at least 3 quotes from competing insurance providers and keep notes on what each company offers for benefits and allowances. That way, you’ll know you’re protected at a price you can afford.