You Should Reconsider Having Vision Insurance — Here’s Why

by Kevin on June 7, 2012

Have you avoided paying for vision insurance?

I had vision insurance with my first job out of college and found it to be pretty useless. I felt like the premiums I paid out of every check added up to just about what it would cost me to go to the optometrist on my own, and the contact lens benefit wasn’t that great. I told myself it was better to pay out of pocket so I could go wherever I wanted and buy contact lenses wherever I wanted.

When I got my new job I decided to stay away from the vision insurance for the same reason. As it turns out (I’ve done a recent review of my benefits), that was a dumb idea!

Cost vs. Benefit with Vision Insurance

In the past when I weighed the costs and benefits of vision insurance I decided it wasn’t a good value for me. I preferred the freedom of choice I got from being self-insured. This has actually worked out okay for me — I’ve always had great optometrists that I could afford (eye exams running between $100 and $140 annually). I avoided the high cost of buying contact lenses from the optometrist, too. Where they wanted to charge me $50 per box (a 6 month supply for one eye; $200 annually), I could go online to a company like VisionDirect and order an entire year’s supply for both eyes for about $100 — including shipping!

In short, I felt like I was getting the better end of the deal.

That is, of course, until I looked at my benefits today.

If I get vision insurance through my employer for my wife and I, our annual premium comes to only $57.72. Add in a two $15 co-pay for an in-network optometrist, and total annual cost comes to $87.72. The plan pays up to $120 in contact lenses per year for in-network providers, which would leave us about $80 short of the $200 an in-network provider would charge. However, they’ll pay up to $105 for out-of-network providers (like my online contact lens provider), which would cover the cost.

Either way, even if I still paid for contacts out of pocket, we’re looking at a difference of about $193. (Two $140 eye exames minus the $87 it would cost us in premiums and co-pays through insurance.)

It’s a miscalculation; thankfully for us $193 per year isn’t going to make or break us. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait for open enrollment, but it looks like I’ll be adding vision insurance the next time it comes around.

Calculating Whether or Not You Should Buy Vision Insurance Through Your Employer

That having been said, vision insurance isn’t always┬áthe best option. You need to calculate whether or not vision insurance is personally beneficial to you. It will depend on your work situation and what benefits are offered to you.

A good example is my wife’s employer. The last time I checked, vision insurance was about $17 per month plus some sort of co-pay. That comes to $207 per year plus, if I had to guess, $30 or $40 in co-pays for the two of us. That drives the total cost up to $237 to $247. We could go on our own for $280, so insurance is only benefiting us $33 to $43. It’s still a benefit, but then you have to be in-network and worry about all of that.

Your situation might be different. You might be able to get an eye exam much cheaper than $140. We go to smaller firm, and we like it. But when I was growing up I could go to Wal-Mart and get the in-house eye exam for something like $60. That greatly changes the value of having vision insurance.

What about you? Have you miscalculated the value of insurance in the past? What did it take for you to change the situation?


Josie June 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Many employers are now offering a vision discount plan instead of a vision “insurance” plans. VSP being the most common.

Just like you describe, you pay a very small monthly premium, have a tiny appointment co-pay (including the annual exam appointment), and an annual allowance toward contacts or glasses AND the in-network providers also have a discount agreement.
So the same contacts you would pay $200 for will be discounted THEN your allowance applied.

I paid less than $500 for my last pair of glasses – including the exam, 2 appointments, designer brand (Ann Klein) frames, Trivex lenses, and Transitions – that would have run me over $1200 without VSP.

Bryan June 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm

There is some potential savings if it is just you and other person. I still have a large family, so in my respect I come out way ahead by keeping my vision insurance. Yes you do have to weight the costs as you say for each situation. Thanks for the post.

Golfing Girl June 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm

We got laser eye surgery and dumped vision since our children aren’t old enough to need glasses and we obviously don’t now. Once the kids might need coverage, we’ll add it back.

Nikita Sharma June 9, 2012 at 10:57 am

hey just recent in last month my father planned for me eye insurance and same related topic I found over here .. thanks to share it dear

Emily June 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I never had health insurance when I was single (thru age 35), but I was glad my DH had it when our planned homebirth ended up in a hospital birth.

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