How does vision insurance work?

Vision insurance works by providing coverage for your vision care costs in exchange for you paying a regular premium (usually monthly). Like with health insurance, your plan might have a vision care deductible, copay, and coinsurance you're responsible for in addition to your premium. Depending on the details of your plan, there may be specific in-network eye doctors you can visit to get the most out of your insurance coverage.

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What is vision insurance?

Vision insurance can help pay for vision-related treatment and preventive care, as defined by the terms of your policy. Depending on your insurer and plan, you might use vision insurance for routine eye exams, glasses, contact lenses, and surgery. Vision insurance is typically a separate policy from your health insurance, but some health plans might include vision coverage.

Vision insurance versus vision discount plans

Insurers may distinguish between "vision discount" and "vision insurance" plans. Each covers similar types of services and products, but the way you pay is different.

  • Vision discount plans: A vision discount plan covers a percentage of your fees for a covered exam or corrective eyewear. It often costs less than vision insurance but may offer less coverage.

  • Vision insurance plans: Vision insurance plans work like a health insurance plan. You may have a deductible, copay, and/or co-insurance to pay when you visit the eye doctor, and your insurance pays for the remaining covered costs. When you buy covered eye care products, you may have an allowance from your insurer. You'll be responsible for the difference if the cost of the product exceeds your allowance. It's possible to have insurance pay the whole cost of a product like glasses, but discount plans will typically pay only a percentage of the cost.

What does vision insurance cover?

Coverage varies by insurer and plan, but vision insurance typically covers the following:

  • Preventive and routine annual eye exams

  • Eyeglass frames and lenses

  • Contact lenses

Vision insurance may also provide some coverage, such as a discount, for elective procedures like LASIK. Each vision insurance plan has its own terms and coverages, so review the specifics when you compare options.

Is vision insurance worth it?

Plans can be affordable, so if you have regular vision care costs, vision insurance might be worth it. Add up your average annual out-of-pocket costs for eye doctor visits, glasses, and contacts, and compare that with quotes for vision insurance. Remember to factor in the potential deductible, copays, and co-insurance when you compare plans. If you have good vision and don't need regular eye care, vision insurance may not be worth it right now.

Pro tip:

Don't skip your yearly eye exam — it can help catch serious conditions that respond best when treated early, like glaucoma, cancer, Parkinson's, or multiple sclerosis.

Frequently asked questions

Why is vision insurance separate?

Vision insurance is often separate from health insurance (also known as a standalone policy) because of the specialized care it covers. Additionally, glasses were historically made and sold by craftsmen — not doctors — leading to a long-standing distinction between health and vision care.

Does insurance cover contacts and glasses?

Vision insurance typically does cover contacts and glasses. Adult health insurance alone often doesn't cover corrective lenses unless the plan includes vision coverage. You might be able to find health plans that include vision and dental insurance for kids, particularly on the government Marketplace, since the Affordable Care Act considers them essential benefits for children.

How do I get vision insurance?

You can quote vision insurance through Progressive Health by eHealth to compare your plan and pricing options. Or call 1-888-831-1065 to speak with a licensed representative about which plan is right for you.

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Please note: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. Read our editorial standards for Answers content. This information is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. Descriptions of all coverages and other features are necessarily brief; in order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to an insurance representative. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in the claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page.