Reading between the lines of vision insurance and knowing when you need it

man and a woman working on a computer wearing glasses

Those who don’t think they need vision insurance should keep in mind one number: 196.

That’s the average national cost of a pair of eyeglasses.1 But that’s not the cost of getting glasses. It doesn’t include the expense of the eye exam or factor in features such as antireflective or glare-free lenses.

Here are a few more numbers to remember: Almost 21 million adult Americans experience vision loss2, and 75 percent require vision correction, according to the Vision Council. Yet roughly 3.4 million Americans are uninsured and receive no vision benefits.3 Multiply that by a pair of glasses, and you’ve got nearly $7 million in uninsured frames annually.

It’s easy to see why vision care is important when staring down these numbers, but a lot of us still tend to be shortsighted when it comes to purchasing vision insurance. Instead we focus on major medical coverage, possibly dental, and eye care gets missed.

It’s understandable since some of the most common eye conditions do not become evident until middle age. However, many vision issues are unexpected and can go undetected for far too long.

Adding up to good hindsight

We see time and again that unless someone is already wearing glasses or contacts, vision insurance is not viewed as a must-have service. “Why do I need an eye exam? I see fine!”

But an eye exam does more than to alert you to whether you need glasses. It’s essential for detecting eye health problems such as glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, which the patient won’t likely notice in the early stages. Also, eye exams can detect conditions that affect one’s body beyond the eyes, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.4

Seeing the value

Vision benefits deliver financial value, and it extends beyond the costs of eye exams and glasses. For a family of four, the savings on eye exams and glasses can run up to $1,200 a year, based on an example of a member using EyeMed’s Insight network versus someone with no vision coverage. Some programs also offer discounts on LASIK and PRK laser surgeries, which cost about $2,000 for most people, according to

And some programs provide added perks. EyeMed, for example, offers its members an additional 20 percent off items not covered by their eye care plan, such as non-prescription sunglasses. Members also have access to some of the most-recognized names in eyeglass fashion, including Coach, Ray-Ban and Versace.

And let’s not overlook the value of peace of mind—and convenience—that a quality eye insurance plan can offer. Depending on the carrier, the patient and entire family can have access to dozens of nearby doctors and retail locations, many of which are open on the weekends and evenings. Some programs offer apps that list provider locations, benefit details, tips and more.

Today’s eye exam can stave off tomorrow’s health issues, which saves money and improves quality of life. If you’re still unsure about vision insurance, then just ask yourself: How important are my eyes to me?

1. “Eyeglasses Cost,” CostHelper Health,
2. Facts and Figures on Adults with Vision Loss,” American Foundation for the Blind, May 2014,
3. Ibid.
4. “Why Are Eye Exams Important?” by Gary Heiting, All About Vision