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How Does Vision Insurance Work?

Vision coverage helps lower the cost of vision care, like eye exams and glasses. If your healthcare plan doesn’t include vision coverage, you can buy an individual vision plan to reduce your vision care expenses. Many commercial health insurance plans exclude routine vision care from their coverage. Employers may or may not offer workers a separate vision plan to fill in the gaps.

There are many types of vision plans available ranging from vision insurance to vision discount plans. With vision insurance, you pay a monthly premium and the vision insurance provider picks up some of the costs of vision care or products. Vision discount plans typically cost less than vision insurance, but they are often less comprehensive and you pay more for visits and eye wear than you would with insurance.

Why is Vision Insurance Separate from Health Insurance?

There are a number of reasons why vision insurance is often separate from health insurance, including a long history of viewing vision and medical as separate practices in the U.S. and the fact that vision ailments are often seen as non-life threatening. Today, separate vision carriers and networks have adapted to deliver cost-effective benefits outside of medical insurance. 

How Do I Get Vision Insurance?

Vision insurance can be available through an employer, or vision insurance can be purchased as an individual or family policy. An employer-sponsored plan often deducts some or all of the insurance premium from the employee’s paychecks. In an individual vision insurance plan, the insured pays a premium to the insurer, usually on a monthly or annual basis. It’s important to note that many vision plans require subscribers to choose a provider from the plan's network. If you already have an eye care professional that you would like to continue using, be sure to check that they are covered by the vision insurance plan you are considering.

How Do I Use Vision Insurance?

If you’re new to vision insurance or are looking to enroll in a separate vision plan, you may be wondering how to start using your vision benefits. First, enroll in a Focused Vision plan through Guardian Direct, powered by VSP. Once enrolled, you’ll be able to start using your benefits as soon as the next business day. Choose a VSP network eye doctor. VSP has one of the largest networks of independent doctors so you’re likely to find one near your work or home. You may choose to go outside of VSP’s eye doctor network, but your benefits maybe significantly reduced. Visit VSP’s online doctor search site to find an eye care professional close to you. 

Once you’ve found an eye doctor, schedule an appointment. With a Focused Vision plan, a comprehensive eye exam only costs $15 with a copay. During your eye exam, your doctor will check to see if you need a prescription for corrective lenses or if you need to update a current prescription. One of the major benefits of eye insurance is the money you potentially save on new lenses and frames. Depending on the plan you choose, you have a dollar allowance to use toward the frames or contacts.

For prescription lenses (single, bifocal or trifocal), you only pay a $25 copay. You may also save money on optional lens enhancements like impact resistance, anti-glare and light-to-dark tinting. Make sure to take advantage of these benefits when you meet with your doctor.

Can I Use Vision Insurance Online?

It is easy to use your vision insurance benefits online or in person at a brick-and-mortar store. Before heading online, it’s important to update your prescription, as reputable online retailers will require you to upload a valid prescription verified by your eye doctor. At your annual eye exam, your eye doctor can determine the state of your vision and update your prescription. 

If you don’t find frames you want in the doctor’s office, let them know you’re considering purchasing new frames online and ask them about lens specifics. Do I need glass or polycarbonate lenses? Is an anti-reflective or blue light coating right for me? Does my prescription require bifocal or progressive lenses? He or she will help you answer these questions and take additional measurements that will make your online search more precise.

When shopping for frames online, it’s important to pay attention to the size and weight. If your frames are too large, they might slip from the proper position, while smaller frames cause pinching of the nose and apply pressure to the temples. Using the size and measurements from your old frames is a helpful reference, but different brands and materials may fit differently.

You may want to try Eyeconic for your online eyewear and contact lens shopping. Eyeconic is an online, in-network retailer for VSP members, making it much easier for you to find options covered by your plan benefits. You can try on glasses virtually and they will deliver your new frames to your door, offering free shipping and adjustments by your eye doctor for custom fitting. Eyeconic includes single-vision lenses and even provides the option to fill bifocal and progressive lens prescriptions.



1. (Last accessed October 2019)


Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, and employees do not provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. Consult your tax, legal, or accounting professional regarding your individual situation. Vision Insurance is provided by VSP and billing and premium collection services for such vision insurance are conducted by DTC GLIC, LLC (d/b/a DTC GLIC Insurance Sales, LLC in California).  DTC GLIC, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America ("Guardian"). Guardian and DTC GLIC, LLC are not affiliated with VSP and Guardian and DTC GLIC, LLC do not assume any responsibility or liability for non-Guardian products or services, including those offered by VSP. Guardian Direct plans are underwritten and issued by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America or its subsidiaries, New York, NY. Products are not available in all states. Policy limitations and exclusions apply. In the event of a conflict between this document and the language stated in your Guardian insurance policy, the language of the policy shall control. GUARDIAN® is a registered service mark of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® ©Copyright 2019 The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, N.Y.



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