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Laser eye surgery: does insurance cover LASIK?

LASIK surgery may be discounted by your vision insurance provider.

10 minute read

If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you may have wondered what life would be like with 20/20 vision. While glasses and contact lenses can help achieve this, they can be cumbersome. LASIK or laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis eye surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that can help correct a wide range of vision problems. Some of the conditions that LASIK eye surgery can improve include near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism. Although LASIK can be expensive, vision insurance may be able to help you cover some of the costs.

How much does LASIK surgery cost? 

The cost of Lasik surgery can vary dramatically from state to state. However, most research suggests that the cost of surgery ranges from $2,000 to $2,500 per eye.1

Compared with the lifetime cost of eyeglasses or contact lenses, the cost of LASIK surgery can be reasonable. Today, the cost of prescription glasses averages roughly $200 for a simple frame. However, the surgical costs of LASIK are not spread out over a lifetime. Instead, most people must pay for the surgery all at once. This can be a hurdle for many adults who are considering LASIK surgery. 

Does insurance cover LASIK? 

LASIK surgery is considered an elective procedure by most insurance companies so most do not cover it. However, there are some exceptions to this, so it is essential to review your insurance policy. 

Guardian Direct® Focused Vision plans, powered by VSP, allow you to save an average of 15% off the regular price or 5% off the promotional price of laser vision correction at participating VSP locations.

When does insurance cover LASIK?

In a limited number of circumstances, LASIK surgery may be considered medically necessary and, as a result, could be partially covered by your insurance. One example of medically necessary LASIK surgery is if you experience an eye injury. In such a scenario, the surgery could be needed to correct your injury and could be covered. Similarly, if you have a physical challenge that makes it difficult to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, then LASIK surgery could be covered as an alternative. 

Why get laser vision correction?

One of the top reasons people choose LASIK eye surgery is because it is relatively quick and has minimal side effects. You can have the procedure done in about 30 minutes, and most of that time is setting up.2 The other reason people choose LASIK eye surgery is because of how quickly you can notice results. Most report seeing very well the day following surgery and can resume normal activities within 48 hours. 

Another reason people decide to get laser vision correction is to reduce their dependence on prescription glasses and contacts. Most people who have laser-assisted eye surgery get 20/25 vision or better3, which works well for most activities. Also, LASIK eye surgery is a relatively safe procedure. The laser shuts off if a patient begins moving their eye rapidly, which reduces the likelihood of error and injury. 

LASIK surgery remains a very popular surgical option for individuals of every age. Approximately 700,000 Americans get LASIK surgery every year.4

How is LASIK surgery performed? 

The process of performing LASIK eye surgery is relatively straightforward. Before the surgery, you will visit a specialist who will take a thorough medical history. They will also take all necessary measurements to ensure they're ready to reshape your cornea on surgery day. On the day of the surgery, you will receive drops that will numb your eyes before the operation starts. Depending on your eye surgeon, you might also receive a mild sedative to keep you comfortable. They'll use a laser to create a flap in the cornea. 

The surgeon will then reshape the cornea, correcting your vision problems. The reshaping process will differ for everyone, depending on the strength of your prescription and if you are nearsighted or farsighted, or if you have an astigmatism. Most people are out of surgery in less than 30 minutes. After a short recovery time in the office, you will be able to head home.

After the surgery

When you leave the doctor's office, you may go home with antibiotics and steroid drops to minimize the risk of infection or unusual inflammation. You may also go home with drops to address eye dryness. Dry eyes are one of the most persistent symptoms after LASIK eye surgery. Dry eyes can be particularly dangerous if you start to rub your eyes, potentially hurting the cornea's newly cut flaps.

Most patients can return to their normal lifestyle within a few days of surgery. However, doctors will often caution patients to be careful of the flap while it is healing and avoid rubbing or activities that could impact or tear the healing flap. Also, you may not be able to swim or use a hot tub for two weeks after having LASIK eye surgery.

Even though most people do not experience any problems or setbacks during the healing period, your doctor will likely discuss symptoms or issues to watch out for. Mild pain for the first day or two is normal, but after that, be sure to contact your doctor. You may also need to contact your doctor if you experience glare, extreme light sensitivity, or bruising on your eyes. Your surgeon can address most of these problems, and they are unlikely to impact long-term eye health. 

The biggest concern related to eye health is that a small portion of patients will require a second LASIK surgery procedure as they age. This is needed to correct new vision-related problems. These second surgeries are more complex and riskier than the initial procedure. 

Am I a good candidate for LASIK surgery? 

Most people are considered good candidates for LASIK eye surgery. Because the operation has been around for more than 20 years, most doctors understand the benefits and drawbacks of laser vision correction surgery. Therefore, they can guide you in an informed manner and proactively answer your concerns. 

Who is not a good candidate for LASIK?

Some people are not good candidates for laser vision correction surgery, including

  • If you are under 18, your eye is continuing to grow and change so surgery is not a good option. 
  • If you are over 40, you may not be a good candidate because your cornea becomes thinner as you age, and this can complicate the process of cutting flaps
  • If your vision prescription has changed dramatically over the last year that could indicate your eye is changing and isn’t stable enough for surgery
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing 
  • People with autoimmune diseases
  • If you have severely dry eyes, surgeons may hesitate to perform surgery as LASIK is known to exacerbate dry eyes. 
  • If you have glaucoma, LASIK is not recommended, as it can negatively impact eye pressure. 

If you are deciding whether to get laser vision correction surgery, you will want to weigh the surgery costs and benefits. On the cost side is both the financial cost and the risk of side effects. On the benefit side, there is the fact that a successful LASIK surgery could mean that you don’t have to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. For some people, this can dramatically boost their self-confidence. If you want to improve your vision with LASIK surgery, talk to your eye doctor and enroll in vision insurance to help you cover the costs.

 

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://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/eye-health/pros-and-cons-of-lasik-are-risks-worth-cost, 2017
2. https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/eye-health/pros-and-cons-of-lasik-are-risks-worth-cost, 2017
3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/lasik-eye-surgery/in-depth/lasik-surgery/art-20045751, 2019
4. https://www.aao.org/Assets/e890eb55-9bfa-465a-8422-8fdbd828518e/635854347414670000/lasik-patient-guide-pdf, 2008 

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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