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Does vision insurance cover bifocals?

Depending on your plan, vision insurance may cover the cost of bifocals.

13 minute read

If you’re having trouble seeing items up close and far away, you may need bifocal glasses. These are a special type of glasses that have both a correction for your distance vision on the top of the lens and a correction to help you read things up close at the bottom. Bifocals allow you to stick with just one pair of glasses rather than switching back and forth from your prescription glasses and your reading glasses. Without vision insurance, bifocals can be expensive, even more expensive than regular prescription glasses. However, vision insurance may cover all or a portion of the cost of bifocals.

Does vision insurance cover bifocals?

Most vision insurance plans cover at least a portion of the cost of bifocals. Some vision insurance plans may involve a co-pay or a deductible, but once that’s met, they’ll usually cover most of the remaining cost of bifocals. There are a few exceptions. Some insurance plans may charge an additional co-pay for more modern types of bifocals, known as progressive lenses. Also, if you’ve already purchased a different set of glasses this year, your vision insurance may cover less or none of the total cost of a new set of bifocals.

How Guardian Direct Focused Vision plans cover bifocals

With a Guardian Direct Focused Vision plan, you’ll receive an annual vision exam for just $15 and your choice of prescription glasses or contact lenses every 12 months. These plans are powered by VSP and allow you to receive coverage when you visit any eye doctor in the VSP network.

Exact coverage amounts vary depending on whether you choose a Gold or Silver plan. With the Focused Vision Gold Plan, you’ll have a higher premium, but you’ll also pay lower co-pays on vision procedures and products, including progressive bifocals. You’ll also receive a $225 allowance for a new pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses each year, which you can use to cover the cost of bifocals. 

With the Focused Vision Silver Plan, you’ll have a lower premium and higher co-pays on some vision procedures and products, including progressive bifocals. You’ll still receive a $150 allowance for a new pair of glasses or contacts each year, which you can use to cover the cost of bifocals.

What are bifocals?

Bifocals are eyeglasses that have lenses with two parts, each of which have different focal lengths. Basically, bifocals have one large area that corrects for distance vision and a smaller area at the bottom of the lens that allows you to focus on objects up close. These eyeglasses allow you to see objects clearly at multiple distances. Bifocals are especially useful if you find yourself needing both prescription eyeglasses and reading glasses to help you see clearly in different situations. 

Types of bifocals

There are a few different types of bifocals. The first bifocal was invented by founding father Benjamin Franklin. Back then, he simply fashioned his own pair of what he called “double-spectacles” by gluing the top half of his long-distance glasses and the bottom half of his reading glasses together.

Today’s bifocals are more sophisticated, yet similar. The two most popular types of bifocals are lined bifocals and progressive bifocals. Trifocals are another common type of multifocal lens.

Lined bifocals

Also known as flat-top bifocals, lined bifocal lenses are a direct descendant of Benjamin Franklin’s makeshift eyeglasses. These lenses dedicate a large area to correcting your distance vision, with a small insert or segment that corrects your vision up close. This line or segment is visible, which can cause them to look less appealing than other bifocals.

Lined bifocal lenses allow you to focus on objects at near and far distances, though they don’t have an intermediate or mid-range area to focus on in-between distances. They're usually more expensive than single-lens glasses, but they’re the least expensive and the most common type of bifocals, especially among adults over 40. 

Trifocals

Trifocals include three parts with different focal lengths, allowing you to see objects clearly at near, far, and intermediate distances. Trifocal lenses have two visible lines. 

Progressive bifocals

Also known as no-line lenses, progressive bifocals feature a smooth change in focus from the top of the lens to the bottom. This allows glasses-wearers to see objects clearly from a far distance, a middle distance (like arm’s length or computer-distance), and a reading distance. Progressive bifocals look just like any other type of lenses and don’t have the line that flat-top bifocals have. 

However, progressive bifocals often involve some peripheral lens distortion around the edges. This may require some adjustment, but most wearers of progressive lenses get used to it after wearing them for a while. The price of progressive lenses varies depending on quality and design, but you should expect to pay more for progressive bifocals than you would for lined bifocals.

Bifocal contacts

If you prefer wearing contacts rather than eyeglasses, you’re in luck. You can also get bifocal contact lenses, which have two prescriptions in the same lens. These come in segmented designs, which are similar to traditional lined bifocals, and simultaneous vision designs. They don’t look any different from regular contacts.

Do I need bifocals?

After age 40, many people start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially while working at the computer or reading. Also known as presbyopia, this is a natural change in the eye’s focusing ability. It’s not a disease, and it can’t be prevented. It often progresses as you age. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from clear vision even as you age. Bifocals can be a great option to help you focus your eyes and see clearly.

If you don’t require prescription glasses or contact lenses to see objects clearly from a distance, reading glasses can help correct this problem whenever you need to view objects up close. However, if you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you may want to consider switching to bifocals.

Here are a few signs that you may need bifocals:

  • You’re over 40
  • You already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses
  • You experience headaches and eye strain regularly
  • You find yourself constantly having to adjust the distance of items to see them clearly
  • Your vision and ability to focus on objects changes throughout the day

Consult your eye doctor about whether bifocals might be a good idea for you. Your doctor will prescribe the right lenses for your needs and help you combat the effects of presbyopia.

What else does vision insurance cover?

Vision insurance helps you save on many of the costs of vision care. Coverage amounts vary from plan to plan, but Guardian Direct Focused Vision Plans cover the following eye procedures and products:

  • Eye exams – Annual vision exams are included in every plan. You’ll only pay $15 when you visit an eye doctor who’s in the VSP network.
  • Frames – Frames are covered up to your plan allowance, plus 20% off on any overage. You’ll even get an extra $20 allowance for featured frame brands.
  • Lenses – Most lenses are covered, including single vision, lined bifocals/trifocals, thin lenses, and kids’ impact resistant lenses. You’ll also save 20-25% on any special lens enhancements.
  • Contacts instead of glassesContacts are covered up to your plan allowance, with no copay. Your plan allowance covers a contact lens exam (including fitting and evaluation) as well as contact lenses.
  • Laser vision correction – Save an average of 15% off regular-priced laser vision correction at participating VSP network locations.

How to use vision insurance

If you’ve recently purchased a vision insurance plan or if you’re considering getting one for the first time, you may be wondering how you can best take advantage of your vision insurance benefits. Here’s how vision insurance works and how to use it, step by step:

  1. Enroll in a vision insurance plan – Guardian Direct vision insurance plans are affordable, easy to use, and simple to sign up for. 
  2. Choose an eye doctor who’s in the VSP network – Since VSP has one of the largest networks of independent eye doctors in the country, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one near your home or work. Visit VSP’s website to find an eye care professional near you. 
  3. Schedule an appointment for an eye exam – Your eye doctor will check your vision to see if you need a lens prescription or if the current prescription you have needs to be updated.
  4. Choose your new eyeglasses or contact lenses – You can purchase them from the VSP location, at eyeconic.com, or at a brick and mortar store. For prescription lenses, you’ll only pay a $25 copay. Plus, you’ll save money on any optional lens enhancements you may choose, such as anti-glare, light-to-dark tinting, and impact resistance. 

Do I need vision insurance?

Taking care of your vision is important for your overall health. If you have impaired vision, vision insurance can help you save on the cost of correcting it. Vision insurance is definitely worth considering if you already use glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.

However, even if you don’t already know you have impaired vision, vision insurance can still help you take good care of your eyes and vision. As many as 16 million people in the United States have un-diagnosed or uncorrected errors in their vision that could be fixed with glasses or contact lenses1. A professional eye exam could help you discover conditions you never even knew you had, as well as how you can remedy their effects. 

Regular eye checkups don’t just affect your vision, either. They can also help detect conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.

How to purchase vision insurance

Purchasing vision insurance is usually a quick, simple, and inexpensive process. If your employer offers vision insurance as a voluntary benefit through a group plan, you can obtain it through your work. Contact your benefits or human resources department to see if that’s an option for you.

If your employer doesn’t offer vision insurance benefits or if you’d prefer to choose a vision insurance plan that suits your individual needs, you can also purchase vision insurance online. No need to pay commissions or fees by using an insurance broker – many insurance providers allow you to purchase insurance directly from them.

Vision insurance can help you take care of your vision without having to stress about the high cost of vision care. For a low monthly cost, you’ll be able to save on the cost of regular eye exams, glasses, frames, laser vision correction, and specialty lenses as you age and as your vision changes.

 

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.

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Sources:

1. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/15/611096873/vision-care-lags-with-blind-spots-in-insurance-coverage, 2018

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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