No doubt about it, times have been rough for a lot of people, making it hard to pay for even important things like eye exams and eyewear. The trouble is, though, that vision problems don’t tend to get better over time. Eventually, eye strain symptoms, as well as the fact that you can’t see anything, catches up with you, making you seriously rethink your priorities.
Learn about your options before you have an optical emergency so that you can make the best, and most affordable, decisions about how to care for your eyes.
Some health insurance plans cover routine eye exams and glasses, while others only cover treatment for diseases of or injuries to the eye. To find out whether your insurance policy covers basic vision care, ask your benefits department at work or call your insurance company directly.
Vision Discount Programs
Some employers and health insurance companies offer vision discount programs. These programs aren’t insurance, but they do entitle you to discounts on eye exams and eyewear. While there are stand-alone programs that you can participate in, your insurance plan may include a discount program with your regular policy. Again, ask your insurance company or the benefits people at work for more information.
Verifying Insurance and Discount Programs
Both insurance companies and vision discount programs typically provide users with a list of participating eye doctors and eyewear shops. Before scheduling an appointment, call ahead to confirm that the doctor or eyewear shop still participates in the plan. You should also ask about prices, the amount of the average discount and costs not covered by your insurance.
Tax Savings on Eyecare and Eyewear
- Tax Deductions: According to the IRS, the cost of eyeglasses, contact lenses and eye exams that is not covered by insurance is tax deductible. Mind you, many people don’t qualify for medical tax deductions because their total medical expenses don’t exceed the threshold established by the federal government. But if your income is low, or your medical expenses are high, your vision care can turn out to be a tax break.
- Flexible Spending Accounts: If your employer participates in a flexible spending account (FSA) plan, you can delegate a portion of your wages for spending on health care expenses not covered by insurance. The money you set aside is “pre-tax,” meaning that you don’t have to pay income tax on it. Many standard eye care expenses, including eyeglasses, can be purchased with money from your FSA account.
If You Have Trouble Affording Eye Health Services
If discount programs aren’t enough to help you afford eye exams or eyeglasses, consider the following options for getting care:
- If you are uninsured, you may be able to get basic medical care, including an eye exam, through a local community health center. These health centers provide care on a sliding scale to the uninsured.
- Your local Lions Club chapter may sponsor free vision screenings in your area and may also be able to assist you with getting an eyeglass prescription filled.
- Check out clinics affiliated with medical schools and schools of optometry. Student eye doctors need to practice on someone, and that someone might as well be you. (Don’t worry, they are supervised by real doctors.)