35 Healthcare: Eye Care

About one-half of all Americans wear corrective lenses. If any of them reside in your household, you probably have long-established routines for checkups and prescriptions. Switch off the autopilot. See how much you can save with these strategies.

35.1  Save on Eye Exams

Supplement Appendix 2 with these tactics.

   35.1.1  Visit Shoptometrists
Get your eyes examined at Targets, Walmarts, or warehouse clubs.

   35.1.2  Scope Out Daily-Deal Sites
Groupon and LivingSocial often offer discounts on eye exams.

   35.1.3  Go Less Often
If your eyesight is stable, get checkups every other year.

35.2  Save on Glasses

Follow Appendix 1 and focus on these additional approaches.

   35.2.1  Ask for a Copy of Your Prescription
In most states, eye doctors by law must provide patients with copies of their prescriptions upon request. Be sure to ask because without a current prescription you can’t order from other vendors.

   35.2.2  Shop Around
Don’t automatically buy eyewear from your optometrist. Compare prices on the internet and at chain stores.

   35.2.3  Consider Internet Dispensers
Online vendors are able to undercut brick-and-mortar stores by wide margins. If your current frames fit well, use their measurements (in millimeters) when shopping for new ones. The sizes are etched on the inside of temples and nose bridges. Visit EyeglassRetailerReviews.com for the latest information about vendors. Beware: the internet doesn’t work well for complicated prescriptions, which often require adjustments. If your prescription is complex, buy from a physical store with generous return policies.

   35.2.4  Consider Costco
In 2010, Consumer Reports surveyed 30,000 readers about their recent vision purchases. Costco Optical garnered the highest score among chain stores for customer satisfaction and low prices.

   35.2.5  Reuse Frames
Keep the frames, order new lenses.

   35.2.6  Buy Generic Frames
Designers charge more.

   35.2.7  Buy Frames With Interchangeable Lenses
Prescription changes are easy to install.

35.3  Save on Contacts

Supplement Appendix 1 with these specific ideas.

   35.3.1  Wear Glasses Exclusively
If you forgo contact lenses, you save on fitting exams and cleansers.

   35.3.2  Wear Glasses More
Rely on your glasses for most activities so that you use fewer disposable lenses (and less contact cleanser).

   35.3.3  Buy Monthly Disposables
If you wear contacts every day, these generally cost less than disposable daily or bi-weekly lenses. Run the numbers.

35.4  Save With Payment Methods

   35.4.1  Tap HSA and FSA Accounts
Most vision expenses qualify for payments from these accounts. You save because you pay with pre-tax dollars.

   35.4.2  Take Tax Deductions
Vision expenses are deductible if overall medical costs exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income. Consult your tax advisor. Note: payments from HSAs and FSAs don’t qualify for deductions, because you already received a tax benefit when you first funded those accounts.

   35.4.3  Seek Credit Card Rewards
If you don’t have an HSA or FSA, at least rack up some rewards by paying with plastic. And even if you do have one of these accounts, pay with plastic anyway: when you charge $1,000 to your three percent cash rewards card and reimburse yourself with a later HSA or FSA withdrawal, you pocket an extra $30.

   35.4.4  Get Financial Help
Many programs help those who meet certain income and age requirements. Visit EyeCareAmerica.org, OptometrysCharity.org, and LionsClubs.org.


I didn’t list these as separate strategies because of their cost and doubtful effectiveness. As to eye surgery, I had Lasik performed on both eyes in 1997, but my eyesight has since worsened and I’m back to wearing contacts (but thankfully at lower prescriptions). Investigate carefully before you agree to go under the knife or laser. As to vision insurance, although my survey of such policies is incomplete, the ones I’ve seen cost more than what you would spend if you simply followed the checklist above. Run the numbers yourself. To price options, visit eHealthInsurance.com.

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