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Does vision insurance cover sunglasses?

Vision insurance may partially cover prescription sunglasses.

10 minute read

As the days get longer and the temperature gets warmer, you are probably spending a lot more time outside. But overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause eye and vision problems.

To protect yourself from these harmful rays, you will need a quality pair of sunglasses. If you already wear prescription glasses, prescription sunglasses might be your best option to block out UV rays and correct your vision, but the costs can add up quickly. However, vision insurance may be able to help you cover some of the costs.

Vision care costs

The costs of vision care are rising every year. The average cost of a comprehensive eye exam that includes screenings for diseases like diabetes and macular degeneration is about $200.1 The average cost for a pair of frames is $240 and lenses can add another $100 to the cost, bringing the annual total for an eye exam and one new pair of glasses to over $550. Since many people need a backup pair of glasses, contacts or prescription sunglasses, the costs of vision care can swell to over $1,000 per year.

Vision insurance can make eye care more affordable. It typically covers eye exams, as well as products to correct vision, such as prescription glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. Some vision insurance plans also offer discounts on LASIK and other elective vision correction surgery. Not having vision insurance can cost you hundreds of dollars each year in eye care expenses.

How Guardian Direct® vision insurance covers sunglasses

Guardian Direct Focused Vision Gold and Silver plans, powered by VSP, provide a 20% discount on prescription sunglasses from any VSP doctor within 12 months of your last WellVision Exam®. Both plans also cover light-to-dark lens tinting for an additional $70 to $82 co-pay. A Focused Vision Plan can start at just $14/month or less in most states.

What is vision insurance?

Routine medical care for eyes is usually not covered under traditional healthcare plans. Traditional Medicare does not cover vision expenses, and private health insurance plans may not either. In the U.S., most people get their healthcare through their job, but those plans may not provide coverage for vision or dental care. Some employers may offer supplementary vision benefits. But the lack of vision insurance has caused a gap in care. As many as 16 million people in the United States have undiagnosed or uncorrected errors in their vision that could be fixed with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery.2 If you are in need of vision insurance, there are two main types of vision coverage you can choose from.

Traditional vision insurance

Traditional vision insurance works like traditional health insurance. Depending on how much coverage the plan offers, you may have to pay a co-pay to get a comprehensive eye exam or the insurance company may pay for the entire exam if you go to an optometrist in the insurance company’s network. Some traditional vision insurance plans only cover the eye exam and not glasses. Others may charge only a co-pay for glasses. Some will cover eyeglasses but not prescription sunglasses. In many cases, the insurance company will pay a certain amount of money for frames and lenses and if you choose frames that are more expensive than what the company allows, you will have to pay the difference between what the insurance company allows and the cost of the frames.

Vision discount plans

With a vision discount plan, you pay a monthly fee and you can get discounted eye exams, frames, and lenses from optometrists and shops that participate in the plan. Discounts range from about 15% to 40% depending on the plan and the monthly fee.

Why you should wear sunglasses outdoors

You should probably be wearing sunglasses when you go outside because the sun and pollutants outdoors can be dangerous for your eyes. Wearing sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the following.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer with around 5 million cases diagnosed each year.3 Some of those cancers develop around the eyes, because of heavy UV radiation, which is the leading cause of skin cancer.

Wearing sunglasses that have full UVA/UVB protection can help prevent skin cancers from developing. Prescription sunglasses that protect the area all around your eyes is a must even if you live in a climate that doesn’t get severe heat in the summer because the sun can be a danger to your eyes all year long. In the winter, the UV rays from the sun reflected by the snow can do even more damage than the summer sun.

Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that is incurable and will eventually lead to total blindness. This condition causes the retina in the eye to slowly deteriorate and it cannot be repaired.  Direct UV light exposure can contribute to the development of macular degeneration, and it can cause more rapid deterioration in those who have the disease. Wearing sunglasses that block UV rays can protect your eyes and help you avoid developing this disease. If there is a history of macular degeneration in your family, you should consider wearing sunglasses outdoors to lower your UV exposure.

Cataracts

UV ray exposure has also been connected with the development of cataracts, which causes a cloudy film to form over the lens of the eye and makes it difficult to see clearly, kind of like trying to look through a dirty window. Cataracts can be removed by an eye doctor who will scrape the film from the lens of the eye to restore the vision but they can return, especially as you get older. There can also be damage to the lens of the eye because of removing the cataract.

Pterygium

Pterygium is a growth that occurs on the conjunctive tissue around the eyeball. It can become serious if it grows large enough to cover your pupil or if it becomes red and irritated. Pterygium can be treated with steroids and medication unless it is a serious case where it interferes with your vision. Usually at that point it has be surgically removed. Anyone that spends a lot of time outdoors can develop Pterygium but wearing sunglasses that protect your eyes from debris, UV rays, and other hazards can lower your risk of developing this eye problem.

Pollution

The debris that makes up air pollution can cause serious eye irritation. Over time, repeated prolonged exposure to pollution can cause eye disease, injury, or even vision loss. Super fine particulates in polluted air can also get inside your eyes and irritate or scratch the lens of your eye. If you live in a highly populated area or a large city that has very high pollution levels, wearing sunglasses, even on cloudy days, is recommended to protect your eyes.

Snow

Bright white snow reflects up to 80 % of the sun’s UV rays, which means you’re getting essentially a double dose of exposure to UV radiation.4 So if you ski often during the winter or if you live in a climate that is very snowy, you need sunglasses during the winter just as much as you do in the summer.

Purchasing prescription sunglasses

If you decide to purchase prescription sunglasses or add tints to your next pair of glasses, vision insurance can help you cover the costs so you can maintain your vision and protect your eyes from UV rays without breaking your budget.

 

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.

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.universityhealthplans.com/custom/VSP_NtlAvgCost.html, accessed June 2020
2. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/15/611096873/vision-care-lags-with-blind-spots-in-insurance-coverage, 2018
3. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html, 2020 
4. https://www.who.int/uv/uv_and_health/en/, accessed June 2020

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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