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The Truth about Eye Care Costs

The Truth about Eye Care Costs

updated

Your vision is priceless.

There are, however, costs associated with correcting, maintaining, and preserving your vision. And as you might have already discovered, finding specific information about these costs on the Internet can be a challenge.

This can leave you with questions that you might want to have answered before you schedule a consultation with an eye care professional, such as:

  • How much does an experienced, board-certified ophthalmologist charge to perform LASIK, PRK, cataract surgery, and other popular eye surgeries?
  • Is it worth it to pay more for "advanced technology"?
  • How will you pay for your procedure?

When it comes to eye care costs, they can certainly vary. If you are shopping for a bargain online, chances are you will find it. Some providers will go out of their way to publish low prices on their websites to distract from poor reviews, lack of credentials, outdated technology, and other issues that might drive away business.

Reputable, board-certified ophthalmologists will never compromise the quality of their care or the safety of their patients for any reason.

On the other hand, reputable, board-certified ophthalmologists will never compromise the quality of their care or the safety of their patients for any reason. They may offer competitive prices and work with you to make their services more affordable; however, they will always put your safety, comfort, and satisfaction first.

Below you will find the price ranges of the most popular eye care procedures. As you review the price range of the procedure in which you are interested, remember that entrusting your vision to an experienced, trusted professional who will do the job right is always worth the cost.

Refractive Surgery Costs

The most popular and widely known form of refractive surgery is LASIK, although alternatives such as PRK and implantable contact lenses offer equally excellent results and are comparably priced. Ultimately, your choice of refractive surgery may come down less to cost than to candidacy and other factors.

Refractive Surgery Cost Ranges (Per Eye)

Procedure

Low Range

High Range

LASIK

$1,500

$2,500

PRK

$1,800

$4,000

ICL - Implantable Contact Lens

$1,500

$5,000

Premium IOL

$1,500

$3,000

Procedure Specific Cost Information

Cataract Surgery Costs

Modern cataract surgery is safer and more effective than ever, with many patients emerging from treatment with crisper, clearer unaided vision than they've had in years. However, patients who want to achieve the best possible vision will have to undergo premium cataract surgery, which entails costs not covered by most health insurance policies. These out-of-pocket costs are shown below.

Cataract Surgery Cost Ranges (Per Eye)

Procedure

Low Range

High Range

Surgery with Astigmatism Management

$500

$1,500

Accommodation Tier

$1,250

$5,000

Surgery with Multifocal IOL

$1,250

$5,000

What factors can affect eye care costs?

It is important to note that the exact cost of your procedure could fall outside of the price ranges listed on this page for any number of reasons. Most ophthalmologists will not estimate the costs of their services until they have the opportunity to meet with patients and evaluate their candidacy for the procedures in which they’re interested.

The cost of your treatment could be affected by:

  • Tests: You may have to undergo a comprehensive eye exam prior to your treatment, as well as tests specific to your procedure, such as a tear film test prior to LASIK.
  • Secondary procedures: For example, some patients who undergo cataract surgery develop a posterior capsule opacity, a relatively harmless condition that mimics the symptoms of a cataract and can easily be treated with a quick laser procedure.
  • Eye health: More severe visual errors will obviously require more intensive treatment.
  • Overall health: Conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure can affect the health of your eyes. This may require more testing, additional procedures, or more intensive treatments.
  • Location: Your geographical location can influence the overall cost of your treatment. Eye care tends to cost more in major metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles.
  • Experience: Doctors who have established reputations, loyal patient bases, and significant business from referrals often charge more than doctors who have just entered into practice. Less experienced doctors can provide excellent medical care as well, but may be more willing to lower prices to accelerate the growth of their patient base.
  • Technology: Advanced technology can be very expensive for practices to purchase or lease, and that cost typically gets passed down to the patients.
  • Additonal fees: Most pricing listed in surgeon surveys are focused around the fees the surgeons charge for their services. Additional costs may include facility fees, anesthesia fees, follow-up fees, fees for medication, and other fees.

Is it worth it to pay more for "advanced technology"?

The VISX custom LASIK system

In a word, yes.

It is important, however, that you understand that you know what you are paying for. Any doctor can stick the word "custom" or "premium" in front of a procedure name in his or her advertising. Make sure that you do your homework and that the technology being used in your procedure is the absolute state of the art.

Here are a few examples of advanced eye care technology that represent excellent value for your money:

  • Custom LASIK (or PRK): You'll find this term a lot online, but what does it mean exactly? Here's what it should mean: that a practice uses wavefront technology to create an intricately detailed map of your eye before performing your LASIK/PRK surgery. This map is able to detect higher order aberrations, or the tiny imperfections in the shape of your cornea that cannot be measured by conventional technologies. This allows your ophthalmologist to customize your LASIK/PRK procedure to your unique eye. Bottom line: If you're paying for custom LASIK/PRK, make sure that wavefront technology is being used.
  • Bladeless LASIK: In conventional LASIK, a handheld blade called a microkeratome is used to create a flap in the upper layer of the cornea in order to access the underlying tissue that needs to be reshaped. In bladeless LASIK, the more precise laser keratome is used to create this flap. While this can add to the cost of your procedure, the decreased risk of flap complications makes it a good investment.
  • Laser cataract surgery: Traditional cataract surgery is extremely safe and effective, but the use of a laser rather than a surgical blade to create incisions allows for greater precision, a lower risk of infection, and a shorter healing time. Your insurance policy may cover your surgery up to the point that it would cover conventional cataract surgery; however, you will probably have to pay any additional costs out of pocket.
  • Premium intraocular lenses, or IOLs: Premium IOLs are an integral part of premium cataract surgery. While most insurance policies will cover the cost of a monofocal artificial lens to replace your natural lens after it has been removed, they generally will not cover the cost of a premium lens. However, you may find it worth the cost to invest in a premium lens, which may allow you to see clearly at all distances without the need for contact lenses or glasses.

When it comes to your vision, as in most things in life, you get what you pay for. If you want high-quality vision, you have to invest in high-quality vision care.

How will you pay for your procedure?

Once you have found the ophthalmologist who is right for you and decided on a treatment plan, you can discuss your payment options. If possible, it is best to pay for your procedure up front, using one of the following methods:

  • Cash (some practices offer cash discounts)
  • Check
  • Credit card, such as MasterCard®, VISA®, or American Express®

If you cannot or prefer not to pay for your procedure using one of these methods, your ophthalmologist may offer alternative payment options. Some practices offer in-house financing, while others allow patients to make monthly payments. You may also be able obtain financing through a third-party medical financing company such as Compassionate Finance® or CareCredit®.

You may also want to talk to your employer about opening a flexible spending account, or FSA. An FSA is an optional benefit program that allows you to have a set amount of your pre-tax salary set placed into an account that supplements your conventional medical insurance. The funds in this account can be used to pay for approved elective procedures, including LASIK, PRK, and other eye care treatments not covered by your medical insurance policy.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, here's how you should approach your search for an eye care professional:

  • First and foremost, find the ophthalmologist that's right for you.
  • Second, but equally important, decide on the procedure and the technology that will allow you to achieve your goals.
  • Then, work toward finding the best possible method of payment.

Our directory features some of the most highly respected board-certified ophthalmologists in the United States. They won't compromise when it comes to your vision, and neither should you.

Ready to take the next step? Find an eye care professional in your area.

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