Vision insurance benefits can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, since they’re often provided separately from health insurance. But having a plan to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear is important for long-term health. In this SmileInSight post, we answer the question, “Is vision insurance necessary?”

“Regular visits to an eye-health and vision-care provider are important for everyone, regardless of their stage in life,” said Dr. James Venable, vice president for clinical programs at Southern College of Optometry.

Whether you have vision insurance or are considering buying a vision insurance plan, here’s what you need to know about whether vision insurance is necessary.

Vision Insurance Can Help Protect Eye Health

Before you purchase vision insurance, it’s important to understand that most vision insurance plans provide enrollees with coverage for some basic vision care services, such as office visits and examinations with eye health and vision care doctors, Venable said.

These services include preventive and screening services to help keep your eyes healthy. These exams, usually done once a year, will likely include the following services:

  • Eyesight measurement. The doctor will also determine how your eyesight has changed since the last exam, and whether it’s a cause for concern.
  • Tests for depth perception, color vision and pupil reaction to light and dark.
  • Measurements of the curve of your eyeball.
  • Assessment of how your eyes work together and focus at different distances.
  • Eye health screenings.

Many vision insurance plans help cover the cost of these visits after a small co-pay, sometimes as little as $10 or $15. However, some plans offer only a discount on the cost of the exams.

Vision Insurance Provides Discounts on Lenses

Vision insurance will provide discounts on lenses, frames and contact lenses you purchase. The benefits will depend on the plan; some will cover a percentage of specialty lenses, coatings or other modifications, while some will not. Some plans cover a flat percentage of a pair of frames and lenses no matter the cost, while others will cover the price up to a certain amount, often called an allowance.

These discounts can make necessary lenses a lot more affordable, Venable said. “This can reduce the overall cost of eye health and vision care for employees and their families over the course of a year,” he said. Note that there is a difference between lenses you need to read or drive and “medically necessary” lenses. Your insurance policy will likely offer coverage for both types, but at different levels. Refer to your insurance policy or certificate (for group coverage) and talk to your eye care provider to understand the difference.

Vision Insurance Is Part of a Bigger Healthcare Picture

The benefits you receive from vision insurance are focused on vision care, not healthcare. But the benefits can work hand-in-hand with your health insurance to screen and identify health issues as well as vision issues.

“Young children often suffer from abnormalities and visual dysfunctions that can limit how well they see as an adult,” Venable said. “As the eye ages throughout adulthood, normal physiological changes predispose certain individuals to diseases and conditions that can be vision-threatening.”

And if medical issues do affect your vision, having vision benefits can put you on the path to seeing better.

“The visual side effects of other health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can cause severe eye health issues and visual impairment,” Venable said, so let your eye doctor know of any health issues when you have an appointment. Meanwhile, your health insurance policy will address treatments for eye injuries or diseases.

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