Improving Access to Vision Care Through Insurance
 

Improving Access to Vision Care Through Insurance

The primary barrier to vision care access is cost
Read Time: 3 minutes
Aug 22, 2022

Millions of people in the United States need glasses or other vision correction services in order to see properly. Not being able to see well can have a negative impact on a child’s ability to do well in school as well as on an adult’s ability to do well at work. However, there are many who can’t afford the vision care that could drastically improve their lives.

Why Can’t People Afford Glasses?

Many people who can’t afford glasses have health insurance. However, most healthcare plans don’t include vision care or have vision care only as an add-on that you have to pay for. This leaves many unable to afford the additional insurance required for vision and also unable to afford the costs of appointments and glasses out-of-pocket because regular health insurance often doesn’t cover glasses or other medical devices and appointments related to vision.

How Much Do Glasses Cost?

glasses on display at a store

The cost of glasses depends on where you buy them, the frames you choose, and the lenses you need. Without insurance, the price can range from $50 to $1000. The more expensive glasses may be designer or have a lot of special features. On average, glasses without insurance cost between $200 and $300. Even if you choose cheap frames, the lenses themselves may still cost a lot of money depending on what features you need and your prescription, starting at around $115 for the lenses alone. How much you have to pay for glasses with insurance depends on your insurance company and your insurance plan. Typically, your insurance company will give you an allowance, for example, $150, and anything above that you would have to pay out of pocket.

How Much Does Vision Insurance Cost?

How much vision insurance costs depends on the insurance provider. In general, it can range from $5 to $15 monthly, not including copays and deductibles that people would still have to pay. Additionally, health insurance in general can be costly, which means many may not be able to afford it. If vision insurance is an add-on, some people may not have access to it without health insurance.

Why Is Vision Not Included in Health Insurance?

Vision plays a major role in overall health. Even though it’s considered separate in terms of insurance, vision itself is not separate when it comes to actual health. One reason that they may be separate is that in the past, glasses-making was considered a craft and they were made by non-medical specialists. Vision only became linked to overall health later on, at which point health insurance was already established without vision care as a standard part of what was covered.

How Is Vision Linked to Health?

Poor vision can have negative effects on the body and is associated with conditions like depression, lung disease, dementia, and even a lower life expectancy.

What Free or Low-Cost Vision Care Is Available for Children?

a child doing a vision test as part of a vision screening

Many schools offer free vision screenings, which are often required periodically by state governments. However, these screenings may not be equal to a complete eye exam and won’t necessarily cover the costs of glasses.

What Free or Low-Cost Vision Care Is Available to Adults?

an older man wearing glasses

Vision care is sometimes covered under Medicare, particularly when it involves vision problems like cataracts or glaucoma that can affect people as they get older. However, preventative vision care often isn’t covered.

How Can Insurance Improve Access to Vision Care?

The cost of glasses and vision care is the largest barrier that is preventing people with lower incomes from accessing the preventative care and treatments that they need. Therefore, the best way to improve access to vision care is to make all aspects of it more affordable. This means that health insurance people already have, Medicare, and Medicaid should include vision services rather than as an add-on service with additional costs.

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