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What is vision insurance? Here are the basics

Vision insurance is insurance that provides coverage for eye care services, such as those rendered by ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians.

It is not traditional health insurance. Health insurance is typically limited to injuries and disease. But health insurance does not usually cover lenses and other forms of vision correction. Vision insurance fills in the gap created by this void.

Vision insurance is a wellness benefit.

Where can I get it?

Vision insurance is available on an individual basis or as part of a group plan. A group plan can be obtained at your company or through an association, or some other organization. It can also be obtained through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Some health insurance plans offer vision insurance as a value-added option (an add-on).

How much does vision insurance cost?

Vision insurance costs vary depending on how the plan is structured, how many people are in the plan, and sometimes, where they live. Costs are well below that of regular health insurance. Each product or service may have its own coverage limit or discount.

Because it is much less expensive than traditional health insurance, business owners sometimes add it to their benefits packages to attract and retain good employees.

Optometry student Brenda Alcantar gives an eye test on the first day of the fourth annual free health clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in downtown Los Angeles September 27, 2012.  The free clinic, organized by nonprofit Care Harbor, aims to provide medical, vision and dental care at no charge for thousands of needy residents over a four day period.  Health care is one of the top issues in the upcoming presidential election.  Some 49.9 million Americans, or 16.3 percent of the total US population, are uninsured, according to CNN.  AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)
Optometry student Brenda Alcantar gives an eye test on the first day of the fourth annual free health clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. (Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

What it covers

Vision insurance generally covers the following products and services:

  • Eye examinations (usually annual)

  • Eyeglass frames

  • Eyeglass lenses

  • Contact lenses

  • Fittings for eyeglasses and contact lenses

  • Laser vision correction (LASIK or PRK)

  • Treatment of some eye diseases and conditions

Vision insurance provides specific dollar amounts or discounts toward the products or services you buy. Whichever form it takes, you will be provided with the figures as part of your plan information. Each specified product or service will come with its own dollar amount or discount.

When you purchase vision insurance, you get access to a network of providers, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, eyewear stores, and LASIK or PRK surgeons.

A man tries glasses on July 2, 2018 (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)        (Photo credit should read FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
A man tries glasses on July 2, 2018. (Photo: FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

How do I pay for my vision insurance?

If you buy an individual vision plan, you will be billed for the premiums either monthly, quarterly, or annually.

If you buy vision insurance as part of a group at your job, you will pay for it through payroll deductions or through a flexible spending account (FSA). An FSA allows you to set aside money pre-tax for various qualified expenses.

Paying for vision care without vision insurance

Standard health insurance covers only a limited amount of eye care services and products. This is one reason that vision insurance exists in the first place.

Those who use eye care services and products but who don't have vision insurance can cover only a certain portion of their costs through health insurance; the rest is paid out of pocket. However, if you have a flexible spending account or a health savings account, most or all of your expenses can be reimbursed. These are plans that allow you to set aside money tax-free to use for qualified medical expenses.

It is wise to consider your yearly eye care needs when determining how much to fund your FSA or HSA.

Dive deeper: Health, dental, and vision insurance: A comprehensive guide

This content was created in partnership with the Financial Fitness Group, a leading e-learning provider of FINRA compliant financial wellness solutions that help improve financial literacy.

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