Common Health Care Expenses: Cost of Laser Eye Surgery

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According to the Vision Council of America, almost 75% of Americans use some kind of vision correction, such as contacts or glasses. Many people have counteracted this with laser eye surgery. We discuss the cost of this common surgery and other things to consider here.

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If you’ve been wearing contacts and glasses for a while, you’ve probably heard of laser eye surgery from friends or had your doctor suggest it and wonder if this procedure is right for you.

Your next question might be, how much does it cost and is it covered by my insurance? Like most surgeries, there are many factors affect the cost. The price can vary widely depending on the type of procedure, the surgeon, and the region of the country. In 2020, laser eye surgery ranges from $1,750 to $2,500 per eye.

What is Laser Eye Surgery?

There are a few types of refractive eye surgery, known as laser eye surgery, available. The most popular form of surgery is known as LASIK.

LASIK is an acronym for “laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis.” LASIK is commonly performed to treat astigmatism, myopia (nearsightedness), and hyperopia (farsightedness). LASIK reshapes the cornea to allow light entering the eye to be focused onto the retina properly, resulting in clearer vision. The surgery is quick - about 15 minutes for both eyes - and not typically painful. The procedure results in improved vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses. The great thing? Most people notice immediate results, and vision stabilizes within a few days.

If you're not a good LASIK candidate, several other vision correction surgeries are available, such as PRK and LASEK laser eye surgery and phakic IOL surgery.

Does vision insurance cover laser eye surgery?

Traditional health insurance does not usually cover the cost of refractive or laser eye surgery. Certain insurance companies will pay for the surgery if specific criteria are met.

Some health insurance companies offer vision plans that may include a discounted price or partial coverage for laser eye surgery.

Laser eye surgery is considered an elective surgery. Several health insurers consider it cosmetic and, therefore, not medically necessary. There are certain conditions where a medical insurance plan may cover refractive or laser eye surgery, including:

  • Surgery for refractive errors resulting from an injury
  • Surgery for refractive errors resulting from surgery
  • Surgery for severe refractive errors. However, there is no standard level of impairment where insurance will cover the cost. Coverage under these situations varies greatly, so check with your specific plan to see if they will cover it.
  • Patients who can’t wear glasses or contacts due to a physical limitation, like a deformity or lens intolerance.

Check with your insurance company to see if your plan covers these costs. If not, these surgeries are considered a qualified medical expense, so specialized savings accounts such as a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA) can be used to help pay for the surgery.

How an HSA can help

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a tax-exempt account that allows you to save for and pay for certain qualified medical expenses.

According to IRS publication 502, you can use your HSA funds to pay for laser eye surgery - including LASIK. Since you contribute to your HSA funds pre-tax, you may save money compared to paying for the procedure out-of-pocket.

HSAs take time to set up and build savings. If you know you need laser eye surgery soon, consider starting an HSA now to have time to save up. HSA funds roll over year to year, so you don’t have to worry about “using it or losing it” at the end of the year. In addition, you can take your HSA from one employer to another, or keep it if you begin working for yourself!

If it’s time those glasses or contacts to go, and you’re a good candidate for laser eye surgery, you can use your HSA funds to help pay for the procedure.

Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.