The nearly 3 million residents of Kansas may have a bigger need for vision insurance than residents of other states because only 3 health insurance companies provide coverage in the state through the health insurance marketplace.
Some health plans don’t cover vision care for adults. Here’s how to choose the best vision insurance plan for you and your family.
Quick Look: The Best Vision Insurance Companies in Kansas
A Look at Vision Coverage in Kansas
Many health insurance plans aren’t required to provide vision care coverage for adults. Medicaid is a notable exception but can limit your choices in eyewear or doctors and eligibility is limited by income. Kids can usually be covered for vision needs through a number of options.
One requirement of the Affordable Care Act is that children under age 19 must have basic vision coverage as part of the “essential health benefits.” Adults, however, might not be covered at all. For many Kansas families, the answer to this coverage gap is to purchase a separate vision insurance plan.
The Kansas Farm Bureau Member Healthcare Benefit Plan, made possible by recent legislation, can provide vision insurance for Farm Bureau members but can also exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions on healthcare plans or charge higher premiums for some applicants based on health factors.
The new healthcare coverage option available through the Kansas Farm Bureau beginning in 2020 is not insurance and might not be the best fit for many Kansas households. In some cases, a better option would be to supplement workplace plan or traditional health insurance plan with a standalone vision insurance plan.
Kansas also has a large senior population, with an estimated 520,000 Kansas residents eligible for Medicare. A similar coverage gap exists even with Medicare coverage. Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover routine vision care.
If you purchase supplemental coverage or a more complete Medicare Advantage plan, these plans can include vision care coverage but may cover other expensive options that you don’t need. Again, the frugal solution is often to purchase a standalone vision insurance plan.
Most vision insurance plans, much like the soon-to-be Farm Bureau healthcare plans, aren’t insurance and are better described as benefit plans. It’s common to refer to these plans as insurance, however, and their function is similar; a well-chosen vision plan can help reduce the overall cost of vision care needs and help prevent large out-of-pocket expenses.
Expect to pay about $15 to $20 per month for an individual step-level plan. Family plans cost more monthly but have a lower cost per person.
What to Look for in the Best Vision Insurance Companies
In exchange for your monthly premium, vision insurance plans can cover many vision care needs, including exams, frames, lenses and contact lenses. Coverage is limited to an allowance for some items, like frames or contact lenses. Other items might be covered 100% or might require a copayment at the point of sale.
Lens options, such as tint or scratch-resistance, might be included with some plans but more expensive options often have a copay requirement. Your vision insurance coverage doesn’t provide 100% coverage in most cases but can reduce out-of-pocket costs for vision care by hundreds of dollars per year for some Kansas households.
Most vision insurance plans don’t use a deductible, so your out-of-pocket costs are largely limited to premiums, copayments and any amounts you spend in excess of your allowances.
Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) are common among vision insurance providers. With a PPO, you can use out-of-network providers but the plan may pay less toward products and services when using a provider outside of the network.
Most vision insurance plans require a 12-month commitment, so it’s important to choose carefully. Vision insurance plans don’t cover corrective procedures like LASIK or PRK. Instead, most plans offer a discounted price available through participating doctors.
Here are some of the things you’ll want to consider before choosing a plan.
The key to getting the most value from your vision insurance plan is to take advantage of annual eye exams. Most plans cover exams once per year.
Some plans even make the exam the main focus, like EyeMed’s Healthy Vision Benefits Plan, which provides free exams and costs $5 per month. Eye exams can cost as much as $100 without coverage, so even an exam-focused plan can reduce your vision care costs.
You’ll find plans ranging from $5 per month to over $30 per month for individual coverage. It’s important to weigh the cost against the value a plan provides. Lower cost plans may focus coverage on exams and only offer a discount on frames and lenses.
Higher cost plans can include more benefits than you need. Most Kansas households are well-served by mid-level plans that cost between $15 to $20 per month for individual coverage and offer a good value by providing enough coverage to lower your overall vision care expenses.
On mid-level and premium plans, expect to have a frame allowance, which means your plan pays up to the allowance amount. If you spend more on frames, most plans offer a discount on the amount above the allowance, typically 20%.
One leading vision insurance provider indicates that the average amount spent on frames is $200. Most plans have a smaller allowance but if you can find a plan with an allowance of $150 or higher, it can help to minimize your out-of-pocket costs.
Most plans provide a frame allowance once each year but some plans limit frame coverage to once every 2 years. This can be a big consideration for some Kansas families, especially if you’re a bit tough on glasses or prone to losing a pair now and then.
Many eye insurance plans let you use your frame allowance for frames or for contact lenses. Plans that cover both are rare, so expect to pay a bit more if you need both glasses and contacts.
Standard lenses are usually covered with only a copay required, which is usually about $25. It’s common for the lens copay to be the same regardless of whether the lenses are single-vision, bifocals or trifocals.
Prescription lenses are usually inexpensive or even covered completely but be sure to study the coverage for lens options closely. With some plans, it’s possible to spend hundreds on popular lens options.
With others, you might only pay a small copay — or none at all, depending on which lens options you need. Lens options represent the largest variance in benefits from one vision insurance company to the next. Often, allowances for frames or contacts are similar between vision care plans but the combined cost of lens options can vary significantly.
Most vision insurance plans cover some services from out-of-network providers. Expect benefits to be reduced, however, and some services may not be covered at all. To get the most out of your plan, you’ll want to choose a plan that includes doctors you trust so you can stay in-network as much as possible.
VSP, a well-known national provider of vision plans, has the largest network of independent doctors. EyeMed, another popular vision plan provider, puts more focus on eye care chains, like LensCrafters and Target Optical.
Our Picks for the Top Vision Insurance Companies
Coverage details are important and some plans may be a better fit for your household than others. Here are some of our top vision insurance picks for Kansas families:
Best Overall: VSP
Combining the largest network, comprehensive yearly exams, and a choice of affordable plans, VSP is a standout when you need trusted vision care coverage.
Individual plans with annual allowances start at about $13 per month and an exam with one of VSP’s independently certified network doctors is only $15. VSP’s standard plan offers a $150 allowance for frames or contacts with an additional $20 available on dozens of brands, like Nike, DKNY, Calvin Klein and more.
Most lens options have low copays but if you use progressive lenses, you might want to consider VSP’s EasyOptions plan, which offers this common option with no copay.
VSP also takes our top spot for the best vision insurance companies in the US.
If you use lens options, take a closer look at Davis Vision. The company’s Premier Plan, priced at under $14 per month for individual coverage, offers several popular lens options with no copayment.
Tinting and scratch-resistant coating can be added with no extra charge. Davis Vision’s Premier Plan focuses on a 12-month frequency for exams ($10 copay), lenses ($20 copay) and frames, which have a $130 allowance, so you can upgrade every year affordably.
Fashion and designer-level Davis Vision Collection frames are included with your allowance and come with a 1- year breakage warranty.
While known for coverage at large chains, like Pearle Vision and LensCrafters, EyeMed also boasts a large independent provider network. Budget-conscious shoppers can choose EyeMed Healthy, the company’s $5 per month coverage for exams. Glasses and lenses are offered at a discount to members with EyeMed Healthy.
EyeMed Bold may be a better fit for many Kansas families, however, which starts at $17.50 per month for individual coverage and offers annual coverage for eye exams ($10 copay), lenses ($20 copay) and frames, with a $130 allowance.
Several lens options, like UV treatment and tinting, are offered with no copay, but expect to pay a bit more for progressive lenses.
Premiums for Humana’s PPO are reasonable at about $16 per month and annual eye exams from any doctor in Humana’s respected network are only $15.
Contact exams are $40, which is competitive with other vision plans.
Lens options are also priced well, with some popular options as low as $15 each and progressive bifocal lenses available for a $65 copay. Humana’s annual frame or contact lens allowance of $150 add value to an already strong plan.
Choosing the Best Vision Insurance in Kansas
The eye care needs of your family may be different than those of your neighbor, and your choice for vision insurance might depend on which plan covers the doctors in your area. This is especially true in a state as wide and as diverse as Kansas.
Weigh the costs for the plans you’re considering by calculating the costs of premiums and copays for the services and lens options you think you’ll need. Comparing premiums alone often doesn’t provide the true cost of coverage. Lens options, in particular, can make a big difference in out-of-pocket expenses. Also, consider plans with a 12-month coverage frequency. Plans that provide new glasses every 2 years may be less expensive, but vision needs can change quickly.
Want to learn more about finding affordable insurance? Check out our guides to the best affordable health insurance companies, the best cheap life insurance and the best homeowners insurance in Kansas.