What Are the Costs of Laser Eye Surgery? Does Insurance Pay for It?

Sub Title

Business people pointing on a document and discussing together
by Dougherty Laser Vision

If you’re considering vision correction surgery, be advised that it is typically an out-of-pocket expense. LASIK costs can vary depending on the technology and experience of the surgeon. According to St. Louis, Missouri-based Marke Scope (a leading source for data in the ophthalmic marketplace) the average cost in 2007 of LASIK and PRK was $2025 per eye, but this can range from $1500 to $3000 per eye. The average price for an ICL and IOL were approximately $4000 per eye. New technology lenses such as presbyopic and toric IOLs cost even more.

Finance plans are generally offered by vision correction practices.

Most vision correction practices offer payment plans for the procedure through one or multiple finance companies. Both 0% interest as well as extended payment plans are typically available that can make monthly payments quite affordable for most potential patients.

FLEX plans can bring many benefits to you!

A helpful mechanism (and tax break) that makes surgery more affordable to many individuals is the FLEX plan, which is essentially a government-allowed, tax-free medical account that is administered as a benefit through many employers.

The employee simply specifies the year before the plan goes into effect how much money they would like deducted on a monthly, tax-free basis from their paycheck to cover the cost of a medical procedure or product. The employee can undergo surgery at any point during the year, paying for the procedure with the tax-free funds, essentially saving up to 40% of the LASIK price of the procedure, depending on their tax bracket.

Getting your medical insurance to help is very unlikely.

Unless a patient has a visually significant cataract, which requires a lensectomy/ IOL, medical insurance will typically not pay for vision correction procedures because it is considered cosmetic. Under no circumstance (except for a cataract) is an elective vision correction procedure considered medically necessary.

We have written many letters to insurance companies to attempt to get LASIK covered as medically necessary when a patient is contact lens-intolerant and/or can’t wear glasses (due to allergy to the frames, a small nasal bridge, or high prescription with thick lenses causing distortion). To our knowledge, in no case has medical insurance covered the procedure.

The only instance where medical insurance covers LASIK price or other vision correction procedures is in situations where they are specifically written into a policy at a higher premium, typically for the benefit of high-level executives of large companies.

HMO plans can put you and your doctor into an unwanted financial pit.

If you have an HMO policy, coverage is even less likely than a PPO plan since HMO payments to your doctor are usually based on a concept known as capitation. Capitation is when the HMO pays the doctor a lump sum of money per month to cover all of the care for a given patient, regardless of how much care the patient requires.

If the patient needs surgery or specialty care, the doctor or medical group providing treatment pays the cost. This is why it is typically so difficult to get surgery or a specialty referral in a capitated HMO setting, as the insurance company who owns the HMO policy financially pits the doctor and the patient against one another.

Many vision insurance plans will not pay for your procedure.

Vision insurance plans also do not typically completely cover LASIK and other vision correction procedures. These plans—i.e., Vision Service Plan (VSP), Davis Vision, or Eyemed—may have negotiated discounts with various surgeons or groups but rarely directly pay for any portion of the surgery.

One notable exception to this is Southern California Edison and certain unions that have plans through vision insurance that pay for up to 90% of vision correction costs. Prospective patients are encouraged to clarify any benefits regarding LASIK price with the benefits department at their company before undergoing any surgery.

When compared to the costs of contacts, vision correction surgery is less expensive over a patient’s lifetime. While a patient might spend $4,000 to $5,000 initially for LASIK, there is no cost for upkeep or maintenance of the results.

Vision Service Plan (VSP) option for LASIK

Vision Service Plan (VSP) has been around since 1955. This company helps people to cover the costs of eye exams, glasses, and eye surgeries. The company now offers some coverage for LASIK and other vision correction procedures, which can help to offset the total LASIK cost.

What’s nice about VSP is that there are no referrals or claim forms. All you have to do is see if you are eligible for VSP benefits online. Then you confirm that your laser vision doctor is part of the VSP network. Make an appointment to ensure that you’re a good candidate for LASIK, and then you’ll be on your way to better vision.

Alphaeon Finance

Alphaeon is a credit card that is exclusively available for ophthalmology, dermatology, dentistry, and plastic surgery services. The card offers various monthly payment options so that you can improve your vision with LASIK without leaving yourself strapped for cash.

Alphaeon offers special financing options for any purchase over $250, with credit lines up to $25,000. The card can be reused for other ophthalmology services or any other medical-based procedure that you may require in the future.

With Alphaeon, you can enjoy no interest if the total is paid within 6 or 12 months, for all purchases over $250. The company also offers an Equal Pay 14.99% APR for larger purchases paid off within 24, 36, 48, or 60 months.

CareCredit Finance

CareCredit is another financing option for those who don’t have the funds to pay LASIK costs outright. Though CareCredit is a credit card, it’s different from a traditional credit card. The card is used to pay for out-of-pocket expenses that aren’t covered by medical insurance. CareCredit healthcare credit card also offers special financing options that you don’t get with most other cards.

There are more than 225,000 enrolled providers in the CareCredit network. Once you apply and are approved for the card, you can use it at any location that accepts CareCredit.

Choose between various short-term financing options, including 6, 12, 18 months, and pay no interest if the full amount is paid by the end of the promotional period. CareCredit also offers long-term financing for 24, 36, 48, and 60 months with APRs ranging from 14.9% to 16.9%.

FSA & HSA

ophthalmologist checking eyesight of woman in clinic

For the 2021 tax year, the IRS announced higher contribution limits for both the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA). This means that you can use an FSA or HSA to cover all or some of the LASIK cost for surgery. Not only are these health accounts a popular financing option, but they’re also a great long-term investment tool.

An FSA is an account that allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars each time you get paid in order to cover the cost of eligible out-of-pocket expenses. You control how much money you want to contribute each paycheck, and contributions are spread out throughout the year.

The benefit of having an FSA is that you can access the full amount of your annual contribution election, even if you haven’t made all of the deductions for the year. This means that you can access funds before you contribute them to cover LASIK prices!

An HSA is another tax-advantage account that allows you to put aside pre-tax dollars with payroll deductions. These funds can then be used to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare costs. An HSA account is very similar to an FSA account. The main difference is that you can only use money that’s available, and there is no “use it or lose it” requirement. Unsure if laser eye surgery is right for you? Take our Vision Correction Self Evaluation.