Study Shows Importance of Vision Coverage

A recent study by researchers at the University of South Carolina in Columbia demonstrated a strong correlation between having insurance coverage for vision care and overall eye health. The study looked at people between the ages of 40 and 65 and found that people with vision coverage received more frequent eye exams than those who lacked coverage. Indeed, those who had undergone a recent eye exam reported better vision than those who hadn’t seen a doctor. Study participants with vision insurance, both those with healthy eyes and those with eye diseases, also reported better vision than those without insurance.
What does it all mean?

The reports of better vision among middle-aged people who receive regular eye exams isn’t surprising: Some vision problems, such as presbyopia, are age-related, but may go undetected for some time because a sufferer may simply adjust their behavior (such as holding a book at arm’s length) to accommodate their decreased vision or may attribute symptoms of eye strain (such as headaches) to other causes. When a vision problem is detected, however, an eye doctor can prescribe appropriate eyeglasses that can greatly improve the wearer’s vision.

Another factor in the correlation between eye exams and eye health is that many serious eye diseases, such as glaucoma, are progressive. Early treatment can make a huge difference in halting the effects of the disease and preserving a sufferer’s eyesight. When someone doesn’t see an eye doctor regularly, the earliest symptoms of eye diseases may be overlooked, and the sufferer may not seek medical attention until he or she experiences severe symptoms and vision loss.


Vision Insurance vs. Health Insurance

Many health insurance policies do not cover routine vision care or eyeglass prescriptions. As a result, many individuals forgo eye exams, even though the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults up to the age of 64 have an eye exam every 2-4 years and that older adults have their eyes checked every 1-2 years. People who do have health insurance, either privately or through work, should find out whether their policy covers eye exams. If it doesn’t, they should find out whether their work benefits package, or their insurer, offers a vision discount benefits package which can greatly reduce the cost of getting appropriate eye care, even without insurance coverage.


What to Do?

The evidence is clear: Early detection of eye problems protects eyesight. If you have vision care insurance, make use of it. Call an eye doctor for an appointment and ask him or her how often you should be getting your exams. If you don’t have insurance or participate in a vision discount program, don’t fret. You still have options for affordable eye care:

  • Eye exams aren’t typically all that expensive: Exams by doctors in private offices often run about $100 while the cost of an exam in a freestanding or department store eyeglass shop can run around $50. Of course, if you have serious vision issues or there is a family history of vision problems, you may need to pay extra to see a specialist. If this is a concern, talk to your primary care physician. He or she can tell you if you need to seek out specialized vision care.
  • You can use funds from your flexible spending account to pay for eye care that isn’t covered by insurance.
  • Contact community health centers and charities in your area to ask about financial assistance with eye exams or for the dates of free vision screenings offered at health care fairs.