Wearing glasses or contact lenses is an almost inevitable part of life when you’re a senior. More than 90% of senior citizens wear some form of glasses or contact lenses. This can make it particularly surprising to learn that Medicare Parts A and B offer limited vision coverage and no coverage for glasses.
It’s a good idea to enroll in a vision insurance plan to protect your eyesight when you have Medicare. But which plan is right for you and how can you compare options? We’ll take a closer look at how vision insurance works and some of the best plan providers for seniors.
The Best Vision Insurance for Seniors:
- Best Overall for Seniors: VSP
- Best for Combination Vision and Dental: Humana
- Best for Contact and Frame Coverage: UnitedHealthcare
- Best for Glasses: EyeMed
- Best for Plan Options: Anthem
An Overview of Vision Coverage
Before we talk about how to get vision insurance and the best vision insurance policies, we need to go over the vision insurance basics.
Vision insurance is a type of protection that helps you pay for vision-related medical care. Vision insurance policies help you pay for things like eye exams, contact lenses and glasses. Some vision insurance policies also include coverage for lens add-ons (like anti-glare coatings) and corrective surgeries (like LASIK). The specific benefits you’ll be able to take advantage of depend on the policy that you choose.
Unlike most health insurance and dental insurance plans, most vision insurance plans don’t include a deductible that you need to meet before you can use your benefits. Instead, most plans include a copay that you must cover out of pocket. A copay is a small payment you make directly to your vision service provider each time you receive a service. Your insurance provider covers the remainder of your bill after you make your copay. For example, if your plan has a $25 eye exam copay, it means that you’ll only pay $25 for your annual eye exam. Your plan may have a different copay for exams, lenses and any other service included in your benefit schedule.
Keep in mind that you pay for your copay in addition to your monthly premium. A premium is the amount of money you pay to your insurance provider every month to keep your coverage current. Your premium is due every month — even if you don’t use your benefits in a given month.
Most vision insurance plans include coverage for glasses and contact lenses. Instead of a copay, you’ll usually see an “allowance” for these products. An allowance is the maximum amount of money that your insurance will pay out for a certain item. While you’re free to go over your allowance, you’ll need to be ready to cover the remaining balance out-of-pocket.
For example, let’s say that you have a vision insurance plan that includes a $150 allowance for frames. You find a pair of frames that you like but they cost $200. You can still use your benefits for this pair of frames, but you’ll need to cover the difference between the price and the allowance out of pocket. This means that you’d owe $50 when you order your frames.
Vision insurance isn’t a replacement for medical insurance — and vision insurance plans don’t cover all eye-related treatments and services. Some optical treatments excluded from vision insurance coverage include:
- Optical surgeries to correct medical conditions like cataracts
- Medications (including eye drops and treatments for pink eye)
- Eye patches and therapies to correct eye-related disorders (like amblyopia)
The bottom line? You still need an independent health insurance plan or Medicare enrollment even if you have a comprehensive vision insurance plan.
Like a health or dental insurance plan, your vision insurance may or may not have an established network of doctors. Many plans allow you to see any doctor or service provider you like but you can almost always save money by staying in your plan’s network. Look for an insurance provider with a wide network of doctors to get the most out of your plan.
Average Cost of Vision Insurance
The average vision insurance plan costs about $17 a month plus whatever copays you incur. However, when you compare the cost of vision insurance to the average vision care costs, you’ll almost always save money.
Let’s take a look at how much you might pay for vision care without insurance in a few different parts of the country.
|State||Average cost of an eye exam||Average annual out-of-pocket costs for vision care without insurance|
When is Vision Insurance Worth it?
You might wonder if you really need a vision insurance plan if you have an independent health insurance plan or Medicare. Many policyholders are surprised to learn that the majority of health insurance plans don’t include coverage for eye exams and corrective lenses. Under the Affordable Care Act, vision and dental benefits are only required for children on each plan. This means that most independent health insurance plans require their policyholders to cover 100% of these expenses out of pocket for adults.
Medicare also offers limited vision benefits for policyholders. Original Medicare doesn’t cover routine eye exams for glasses or contacts, nor do they offer any type of coverage for frames or lenses. If you have diabetes, Medicare Part B will cover one annual eye exam. If you have glaucoma, Medicare Part B covers 1 annual glaucoma test. However, if you haven’t already been diagnosed with either condition, you don’t have any type of vision coverage under Medicare.
If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan (Medicare Part C), your insurance might include additional vision benefits. Check with your policy provider to learn if you already have vision coverage before enrolling in a standalone policy.
How to Get Covered
It’s never been easier to find a vision insurance policy. Most independent policy providers now offer online quote systems that allow you to quickly choose a policy and enroll. Depending on your insurance provider, you might be able to enroll online in as little as a few minutes. Be sure to compare quotes from at least 3 insurance providers before you choose a policy to ensure that you’re getting the best rate possible.
The Best Vision Insurance for Seniors
Now that you understand vision insurance and how it works, let’s take a look at some of the best vision insurance for seniors.
1. Best Overall: VSP
VSP is the largest provider of vision insurance in the United States — about 1 in every 4 Americans who have vision insurance get their policy through VSP. VSP boasts the largest network of doctors in the country, so you won’t have trouble finding a doctor near you who accepts your insurance. Plans are available throughout the nation and you can get coverage from just $13 a month.
VSP plans have no deductibles and copays are exceptionally affordable as well. VSP offers plenty of coverage, a massive network and affordable policies. It’s our top choice for senior citizens who need comprehensive coverage while on a limited income.
2. Best for Combination Vision and Dental: Humana
Like vision insurance, Medicare coverage doesn’t include dental coverage as a standard benefit. If you want dental insurance, you’ll need to add another independent policy. Humana offers both dental and vision insurance with an easy, intuitive quote system.
Simply enter your date of birth, ZIP code and gender to see all both dental and vision options. With vision policies available from just $14 a month and dental options available from $18 a month, Humana makes it easy and affordable to fill in the gaps left by Original Medicare.
3. Best for Contact and Frame Coverage: UnitedHealthcare
Most vision insurance plans only include a single allowance per 12- or 24-month period. But what if you wear both glasses and contact lenses? If this is your situation, consider a vision insurance plan from UnitedHealthcare. UnitedHealthcare offers 2 tiers of vision coverage.
If you only need glasses or contacts, you can opt for the more affordable Plan A for as little as $11 a month. If you need both glasses and contacts, you can get allowances for both from as little as $16 a month. Plans also include no waiting periods and $10 copays for office visit. Start using your benefits as soon as you enroll with a UnitedHealthcare plan.
4. Best for Glasses: EyeMed
You may want 2 pairs of glasses to coordinate with your outfit. Or you might want multiple pairs to keep at your desk or in your car. There are plenty of reasons why you might want to buy more than a single pair of glasses. Unfortunately, most vision insurance plans only include an allowance for a single pair. If you want a second pair, you’ll pay for it out of pocket under most plans.
EyeMed offers one of the most generous frame allowances of any vision insurance provider. Your EyeMed plan will include between $130 and $200 for your first pair of glasses depending on plan tier. If you buy a 2nd pair, you’ll save 40% off the retail price. Plans begin at just $18 a month and EyeMed is a top choice for glasses-wearers.
5. Best for Plan Options: Anthem
Do you want to customize your coverage? Consider getting a quote from Anthem Vision Insurance. Anthem provides 3 coverage tiers in most states, ranging from its ultra-affordable Blue View Vision Value to its comprehensive Blue View Vision Enhanced.
This selection of plan choices can be especially beneficial for seniors who want coverage but who need to consider a limited income. Anthem policies are exceptionally affordable no matter which plan you choose. In many states, you can find coverage from just $12 a month and higher-tier plans are around $20.
Protecting Your Sight, Protecting Your Health
Understanding the ins and outs of any type of insurance can be confusing. The best way to ensure that you enroll in the best plan possible is to leave yourself plenty of time to research your options. Don’t wait until your current glasses prescription is no longer working to start shopping for insurance. Compare plenty of quotes, speak with representatives and understand all of your options to allow you to get the coverage you need to protect your optical health.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Q: What types of vision plans are available to me?
2) Q: Is laser surgery (LASIK or PRK) covered by vision insurance?
Some vision plans offer discounts on LASIK or PRK, but these procedures are considered an elective correction surgery and may not be covered under your policy.