Thinking of ditching your glasses and contacts in favor of laser eye surgery? As technology advances, it’s becoming safer, more effective and more available than ever. Nevertheless, in many cases, the procedure still entails a significant cost, which may discourage people who would benefit from seeking treatment.
Better eyesight is a worthwhile investment. It’s a life-changing procedure for the cost of an old used car. However, not everyone’s bank account is prepared for purchasing either one. But don’t dismiss the possibility yet: there are savings options available to help lower procedure costs and lessen their impact on your day-to-day budget. Stay with us to learn more about laser eye surgery costs, coverage, and payment options that can make the care you need more affordable.
The cost of laser eye surgery
Costs can vary by type of procedure.
- LASIK, the most common and affordable type, is ideal for most patients with farsightedness, nearsightedness, or astigmatism. It involves using a laser or a combination of a laser and blade to cut a thin flap in your cornea and then reshape it.
- Wavefront LASIK is a more technologically advanced form of LASIK that uses wavefront light analysis to determine exactly how light travels through your eye, allowing the surgery to be more customized to your specific needs, and thus potentially produce better results than traditional LASIK.
- PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) is the second most common type of laser eye surgery. It’s usually more expensive than LASIK. It removes tissue directly from your eye surface to change the curvature of your cornea.
The average cost of all these methods runs between $1500-$2500 per eye. (LASIK and PRK pricing is generally quoted per eye, because in the case of astigmatism only one eye may require the surgery.) The surgery is an outpatient procedure that normally takes about 10 minutes and is mostly painless. Recovery time is usually no more than 48 hours, so you can be back to work in no time.
Does insurance cover laser eye surgery?
Not normally. Under most plans, it’s considered an elective or cosmetic procedure. However, many larger insurance companies partner with providers to offer subscribers a discounted rate as a courtesy. Additionally, many large employers offer plans that cover at least part of LASIK costs. If you work for a major company, ask your HR department if any available plans might cover corrective eye surgery.
But there are special circumstances in which insurance companies may deem the surgery medically necessary and cover it.
Special circumstance #1: you need the surgery to perform your job.
This often applies to members of the armed forces who meet specific vision requirements and are willing to have the surgery done in a military facility. Civilians with important public service jobs like police and firefighters who must meet safety requirements can also make a case to their insurance companies that the procedure is necessary to meet the demands of their professions. Athletes who play pro sports and entertainers such as actors may be able to make a case as well.
Special circumstance #2: medical conditions
The other way you could qualify for insurance-covered LASIK is if you have a medical condition that makes wearing glasses or contacts dangerous or impossible, such as severe metal allergies, dry eyes, or a contact lens intolerance. These conditions, as well as an effort to wear glasses or lenses, must be documented; contact your insurance provider to learn more.
Corrective eye surgery financing options
Some providers offer in-house financing for LASIK and PRK. These providers generally don’t charge interest, so you can spread your payments out over many months or, in some cases, years without paying anything extra. This makes an affordable option – just make sure the provider is reputable and board-certified before you proceed.
Other providers partner with a financing company such as Care Credit. These companies administer the financing plan and offer long-term payment structures with fixed rates. You can also seek out your own financing, but before you commit to a personal loan, check with your surgeon’s office to be sure they are willing to work with your financing company of choice.
For some financing plans, a deposit may be required. (Learn more about how secured and unsecured loans are different.) Interest rates can also vary greatly by company and depend on your credit history. Some may rise above 20% in some cases. Remember to research all your options, and if an interest rate is involved, opt for the shortest-term financing possible so you can save money on interest in the long run.
Saving for vision care
If your employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), take advantage. These types of accounts offer an excellent, tax-advantaged way to save for your LASIK or PRK procedure. They also allow you to contribute a percentage of your income to pay for medical care-related costs over a period of one year. Both HSA and FSA contributions are pre-tax and reduce your taxable income.
2017 FSA & HSA Limits
|Eligibility||Anyone with insurance through an employer||People with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)|
|Tax advantage for contributions||Pre-tax||Pre-tax|
|2017 yearly maximum (individual)||$2,600||$3,400|
|2017 yearly maximum (family)||$2,600||$6,750|
|Year-end rollover||Generally, no – but employer may offer a grace period or allow up to $500 to carry over||Yes|
In 2017, the maximum an individual can contribute to an FSA is $2,600. (Note: this amount will likely not cover the full procedure cost for both eyes.) If your employer offers a Health Savings Account (HSA), you can contribute more than an FSA: $3,400 for individuals and $6,750 for family coverage. The downside is in order to have an HSA, you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan. However, if you are young and in good health, this downside may be minimal. An upside to having an HSA is if you don’t use all the money in the account in one year, it rolls over into the next. Conversely, the majority of FSA funds must be used by year’s end or you lose them.
Other costs to consider
You’ll most likely have to purchase some prescription eye drops for after-surgery care. They are usually a combination of antibiotics and steroids, depending on the type of surgery you select. There are also eye drops that help with discomfort. Your insurance may cover the cost of these prescriptions; check your plan’s prescription drug coverage. You may also need artificial tears for a few months after surgery. These are over-the-counter, and you’ll likely have to pay for them out of pocket. They could end up costing several hundred dollars over time, so you may want to account for that cost when budgeting for FSA or HSA contributions.
Although laser eye surgery requires a significant financial investment as well as time spent researching providers and benefits, for many people, seeing clearly is worth the expense. If better vision is important to you, don’t dismiss the idea of corrective eye surgery too quickly. Research and careful budgeting can make this life-changing procedure fit within almost any budget.