Evaluating Vision Insurance Plans - Choose the Best One for You
While some employers often vision care programs, many do not, despite the fact that caring for your eyes is as essential as caring for the rest of your body. In fact, more than half of all American adults have some vision correction need, and by the time they have reached the age of 80, nearly all adults have had or are about to have a cataract surgery.
If your employer does not provide vision insurance, or provides inadequate coverage, you will need to research your options thoroughly before purchasing your own plan. It is important to weigh all your choices before selecting the best insurance possible for your family's needs. If you don't have any pressing vision needs, you may be tempted to put off this process, but don't give into laziness! There are many eye disorders whose early signs can only be spotted by a doctor, so yearly eye exams are essential. Plus, caring for your eyes during your younger years can lessen your risk of developing serious eye disorder later in life, such as cataracts or macular degeneration.
Discover your options
If you're in the market for vision insurance, you should start by scheduling an appointment with a licensed insurance professional. Be prepared to discuss your vision care needs, including any potential pre-existing conditions, the number of people in your family and what you would like to have in a policy. Questions you may want to ask about potential vision insurance policies include:
- Am I restricted to certain eye care professionals or can I select my own?
- How frequently can I visit my eye doctor? For instance, if there is an injury or an eye infection after a scheduled exam and follow up, would it cost me extra to see the doctor for this?
- What is my deductible and premium package? Some people opt to pay slightly higher premiums so that they do not have as high of a deductible.
- What is the percentage of covered expenses for items such as contact lenses and glasses? Are there restrictions for options like transitions lenses or scratch-resistant coatings?
- What is covered when there is a special need or condition that is found by the doctor?
- Are special tests, supplements or procedures such as LASIK or orthokeratology covered by this insurance? For many vision plans, LASIK might be at least partially covered while ortho-k might not be.
Know your needs
The first step to choosing the right plan is to know what kind of eye care services you will require. Review your medical records from the last two years. You can use this information to estimate your future needs. (If choosing a family plan, be sure to review the records of each member.) Take note of what services were needed (eye exams, glasses, contacts, etc), and how often.
Two main types of plans
Vision insurance plans generally fall into one of two main categories:
- Vision Benefits Package - this is similar to health insurance where you pay a monthly premium and possibly a co-payment at the time of your visit, and the plan covers the rest
- Vision Discount Plan - you pay the full amount of the service yourself, but at a special discounted rate
Two other things to consider
Whichever type of plan you are looking at, there are two important things to keep in mind:
- The network of providers - make sure you choose a plan with quality eye care providers near you. Driving a long way may not be an issue for your yearly eye exam, but could be very inconvenient if there is an eye injury or other emergency. If you are considering LASIK or other laser vision correction, be sure to look for a surgeon in your prospective plan as well.
- The services offered - Most plans will cover the basics, but don't forget to check for special services you might need such as laser eye surgery or specific types of glasses, coatings, or contact lenses.
Make a chart to compare plans
If there are a number of plans you are considering, the easiest way to compare them is by making a chart, because there is a lot of information to keep track of. Based on your medical records, write down each service you anticipate needing in the future, and approximately how often. Then for each plan, write down whether these services are covered, the frequency allowed by the plan, and the estimated cost for each plan (copayments, premiums, and any other fees). This will allow you to do a side-by-side comparison to determine which plan will save you the most money while still meeting all your needs. Generally, you will probably find that plans within the same price range are somewhat similar, but a careful comparison will help you see which plan outshines the others.
Don't forget to compare with your current plan
If you do have an insurance plan through your employer, make sure you compare it with any other vision plans that you are considering. While the coverage may have seemed inadequate at first glance, in the end you may find that it's comparable to the other plans in your price range.
Help from the state, for those who qualify
If your income qualifies you for state health insurance from, you may also be covered for regular eye exams and glasses. While each state has different rules for the plan that they administer, you are typically able to choose the doctor you see from a list, and the selection of frames that are offered to patients is much wider than it used to be. To find out if you are qualified for any of these types of programs, contact your state’s welfare department for income requirements and application information.
Understanding your coverage
Before you go to your first insurance-funded eye appointment, make sure that you understand the coverage that you have and what you will be expected to pay. Make sure you know know your co-pay and any applicable deductibles ahead of time so that there are no unpleasant surprises at the doctor's office. If you need vision correction, find out what types of frames, lenses and contacts are covered, and which would cost extra. Don't forget to ask about any special features you may want in your eyewear, such as aspheric, high-index or photochromic lenses and scratch-resistant, UV or anti-reflective coatings.
Any time that you have a question about your insurance that you cannot answer by reviewing your policy, make sure that you call and ask your provider. It's much better to ask and be sure than to incur unexpected expenses that could be avoided by a simple phone call or email.
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Article contributed by SnappyWriting.com