As you may have read, Mrs.Need2Save works in HR so explaining vision benefits is something that happens regularly. Many companies offer vision insurance. The coverage is relatively low cost when compared to medical coverage. But is vision insurance worth the cost? It really depends. Is your company paying for a portion of the premiums or is it just offered on a voluntary basis? If you work for a larger company, the overall premiums are probably less to start off with due to economies of scale, but a typical plan runs somewhere between $5 to $10 per person per month.
At my current company, we don’t actually subsidize the premiums at all. So if an employee wants coverage, they pay 100% of the cost. This has forced me to really challenge whether buying the coverage makes sense at all for my own family. Especially since Mr. Need2Save had laser surgery a while back and no longer needs glasses or contacts. Does enrolling in vision insurance work in the employee’s favor? Let’s look at some typical costs and do the math:
Disclaimer: your coverage may be more or less depending on your plan features and the company you work for! Check your plan summary and costs.
For illustrative purposes, we found the vision insurance costs for a university in the Midwest where the employee pays full cost of the insurance.
If you have a very large family, you can see that for $211 annually you may be getting a pretty good deal under the family level if many members of the family have the need for glasses and/or contacts. The price per person goes down the more family members you have. For example, if you have six family members it’s only $35 per person for premiums. However, you have to also look at your out of pocket costs.
Under this illustrative plan, an annual eye exam costs a minimum of $30 assuming you go to an in-network professional for your exam. Let’s assume what the costs look like for a family of four who all get an annual eye exam (recommended):
The cost of glasses are going to vary quite a bit depending on the options you choose. Are you getting thinner lenses, Transitions, or designer frames? The costs shown above are the actual out of pocket costs for Mrs. Need2Save and our youngest son who both purchased new frames and lenses this year under a similar, but not identical plan to our illustrative design. Mrs. Need2Save’s glasses were pretty expensive, partly due to the thinner lenses and Transitions tinting. Our older son wears daily contact lenses and the cost above is for 4 90-pack boxes. He doesn’t wear his contacts every day, so this will likely get him through the year.
How much is an eye exam anyway?
The truth is that many retail chains have specials all the time on eye exams. They run these deals to get you in the door and hopefully you will purchase lenses or contacts through them (this is where they make the real money). You can probably get a pretty good price just by paying attention to the promotions in your area. For example, I see that you could get an eye exam without insurance for as little as $50 or $60 at some retail places. Although this is more than the $30 exam copay in our illustrative employer coverage above, it’s less when you factor in the cost for the premiums. The actual eye doctor we went to quoted $115 for an eye exam before insurance discounts – so this can indeed vary greatly.
But let’s go a bit further….
An alternative source for glasses: Warby Parker
Mrs. Need2Save first learned about Warby Parker from a benefits broker. He explained that he had ditched vision coverage for his own family and recently decided to use services like Warby Parker and was actually saving money. After one of our sons got his first pair of glasses and then later decided he didn’t actually like them that much, we considered testing Warby Parker out to see if the quality was decent and he could choose a different style for a fairly low cost.
Please check out our Warby Parker review for all the details, but in nutshell, we were really satisfied with our experience.
An alternative source for contacts: 1800contacts
We are not affiliated in any way with 1800contacts.
There are several online contact ordering sites now. We have not tried them all, but we imagine they are all pretty similar. We used 1800contacts for estimates for this price comparison. Ordering a six-month supply of daily contacts for our older son would be around $396 before any special promotions, coupons, or rebates are applied. He doesn’t wear contacts every day, so a six-month supply will probably last a year. You do need a valid contacts prescription to use any of the online providers.
I also noticed that at the time of writing this post, on Ebates (a rebate site the Need2Save family uses) you could get 5% back and they’ll help you find related coupons on your order as well for additional savings. There may also be direct manufacturer rebates available depending on the brand ordered. (If you are interested in Ebates and use this referral link, we may get $10, but you’d also get $10 under their current referral bonus program)
Alternative Strategy Summary Using Estimated Costs
Instead of signing up for the vision plan, you could skip it. Pay for the eye exams out of pocket by watching for a good promotion price and order glasses and contacts online unless the retail store can price match or offer something better.
Challenge everything! Don’t just go with all the options you are offered. If it makes more sense to go without vision insurance, you should do it! This is one of the easier areas to self-insure and you could actually save money by skipping this coverage. Did the benefits lady just tell me to skip over a benefit program? Yes, I sure did (depending on circumstances of course).
- In some cases, vision coverage may be a good deal especially if your employer pays for a big part of the premiums or if many family members need glasses or contacts.
- Having your eyes checked regularly is important. It’s possible for the eye doctor to notice signs of certain health conditions, like diabetes, before your regular physician detects them. Your eyes are truly the window into your health!
- There is no reason you have to buy glasses or contacts from the place you get your eye exam!
- Don’t pay for coverage and then don’t use it. That is a total waste of your hard earned money.
- By using innovative solutions such as Warby Parker for glasses and 1800contacts for contacts, you can have your eye needs taken care of from the comfort of your own home after you have your annual eye exam done by a professional.
- Don’t forget to use your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) , Limited Purpose FSA or Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay for your vision expenses, if you have one. This reduces your cost further by using pretax money.
Hope this helps you ‘SEE’ that more options are out there!
Does your company offer vision insurance? If so and you’ve purchased it, are you getting your money’s worth?