If you are one of the 150 million Americans whose natural vision isn’t perfect, you know how inconvenient corrective lenses can be. Over the past 40 years, corneal refractive surgery has become the treatment of choice for people who want to reduce their dependence on glasses and contact lenses. Laser assisted in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is the most popular corneal refractive procedure in the United States, and it generally provides excellent results.
LASIK is a considerable investment, and many health insurance plans don’t cover the procedure. This article identifies other ways you can reduce the cost of LASIK.
Insurance companies classify a procedure as elective — some use the term “cosmetic” — if the primary purpose is to change or improve a person’s appearance and there is no medical necessity for the procedure. Although LASIK corrects your vision, it is still considered an elective or cosmetic procedure by most health and vision insurance companies. Check with your health benefits coordinator or agent to determine whether your insurer considers LASIK an elective procedure.
The cost for LASIK varies, depending on your location, vision correction needs, doctor and technology used during the procedure. Market Scope, a St. Louis company that tracks trends in eye care, cites the average per-eye cost for traditional LASIK at approximately $2,000. However, some of the cost can often be defrayed. According to Terri Rouse, Director of Managed Care at LCA-Vision Inc., health or vision insurance commonly entitles you to a discount on LASIK via in-network, experienced LASIK doctors. Many insurance companies also contract with select LASIK providers to offer discounted rates to plan members.
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), you can use money from your account to help pay for your LASIK procedure, because it is an eligible medical expense. By using these tax-free dollars, you can save $700, based on the maximum allowable contribution of $2,500 and a tax rate of 28 percent.
If you have access to an enhanced health plan that provides an annual allowance that can be used for LASIK, signing up at the next available enrollment date will open up another source of funds to put toward your procedure. You may also be able to secure a health credit card or short-term loan through a health care financing company. Whether or not you’re insured, you may qualify for in-house financing through your LASIK provider.
If you are considering LASIK, do your homework before plunging in. First, check your health or vision plan to find trusted, in-network providers who offer a discount. Next, determine whether you are a good candidate for LASIK. Some LASIK providers offer free evaluations to determine whether LASIK is appropriate for you. If you decide to proceed with LASIK, maximize your savings by combining your plan discount with your FSA or HSA dollars, if these resources are available to you. If you need additional funding, explore financing options with your eye doctor or a health care financing company.
These ways to save and finance the procedure, along with the long-term savings on glasses and contacts, can go a long way to make LASIK an even better investment.
American Optometric Association: LASIK Refractive Surgery: Clinical Considerations for the Pilot
American Family Physician: LASIK: A Primer for Family Physicians
UnitedHealthcare: Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery — Definition
Duke Eye Center: A Clear-Eyed View of LASIK
Terri Rouse, Director of Managed Care, Laser Centers of America: Personal Interview
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