How Much Does LASIK Cost? Understanding Laser Eye Surgery Cost
As with any medical procedure, there are a number of factors which must be taken into consideration regarding LASIK costs. Variables such as the area of the country, number of other medical professionals in the area who also offer those services, type of technology or tools utilized during the surgery, and experience level of the medical professional are usually the most common. If you read somewhere online that a person paid $3,419.45 for a procedure, do not expect that you’ll pay that exact amount. Medical procedures are not like ordering online where everyone sees the same price and the only variable cost will be the taxes and shipping costs.
LASIK surgery is no different. In 2017, it is estimated that the average LASIK surgery was $2,088, per eye. So, if in 2017 if you needed LASIK surgery for both of your eyes then you might expect to pay $4,176. Remember though, this is just the average! Most people paid either more or less per eye depending on a number of different factors.
Will my insurance pay for LASIK surgery?
Your health insurance will not pay for LASIK surgery. Regular visits to the optometrist, glasses, contact lenses, or medically-needed surgery all are expensive. Vision is often an afterthought compared to both health and dental insurance plans. However, when someone is in need of vision-related assistance it can become quite expensive if there is not an insurance provider there to assist in paying the bills for the services.
LASIK surgery is a well-known and commonly performed procedure to correct a person’s vision. Many people wonder how expensive LASIK surgery is, which will be covered in more detail throughout this article. Unfortunately, most health and vision insurance companies do not cover LASIK surgery as they view it as an elective or cosmetic surgery. Essentially, they are stating that this procedure is not “medically-needed” and a cheaper alternative, such as glasses or contact lenses, will suffice. Some insurance providers look at this as the same as a hair restoration procedure or breast augmentation.
But don’t lose all hope as there may be some special circumstances or other options available in which you could get your vision insurance provider to cover the full or partial procedure. If you work for a large company, you may want to check with the potential company who may perform your procedure to see if they offer any form of discounts. Sometimes these larger companies negotiate with the LASIK surgeons to provide their employees a discount.
If you are in the military then you will also have a good chance that LASIK may be covered by your vision insurance provider. A lot of positions within the five branches require certain vision requirements even without corrective glasses or contact lenses. If a person in the military has their vision fall below a specific requirement then they are effectively out of a job or have to be reassigned to a lower level or different job. The case is strong that if LASIK surgery is not provided they will be unemployed which will negatively impact other areas of their life as well. Unfortunately, there may be a long wait to get the procedure completed in a military facility.
Going along the lines of the military, there are other areas of work that have vision requirements without the use of corrective lenses such as glasses or contact lenses. Persons who are in professional sports, acting, modeling, or other forms of entertainment heavily require use of their eyes while also not altering their appearance. While a case may be made for persons in this industry to fight for their vision insurance to cover LASIK surgery, it is an uphill battle which persons often lose more than they win; however, it is still a possibility worth exploring as it is not impossible and can save a person a lot of money in the long run.
Also, if you work in a profession which deals with the public’s safety or health you may also have a case to have your vision insurance pay for LASIK surgery. Public safety jobs such as a police officer, firefighter, or EMT may all qualify. Finally, people who have medical conditions which may prohibit them from wearing contact lenses, or have severe dry eyes or allergies, may also have a strong claim as they don’t have other options available to them for vision correction.
The best advice regarding getting your vision insurance to assist with LASIK surgery payment is to carefully read through your policy and then determine if you may meet any of their qualifications for such assistance. Do not lie or provide false information as it may result in a complete loss of coverage if the dishonesty comes to light. Essentially, if you can still wear contact lenses to correct your vision which allows you to perform your job with no adverse risks or otherwise your health is not affected, it is unlikely that you’ll be approved by your vision insurance to assist with LASIK surgery.
Ways to pay for LASIK surgery
There are a number of ways a person might pay for their LASIK surgery because, as mentioned above, in rare circumstances will a health or vision insurance provider pay for the procedure. The first method would be to contribute to a flexible spending account, also commonly referred to as an FSA, if it is offered by your employer. A flexible spending account is when an employee is able to divert money from their pre-tax salary into a special account which may be used for out-of-pocket health care. For instance, in 2018 the maximum employee contribution amount to a flexible spending account was $2,650. This amount may help pay for approximately one eye’s procedure. The funds in this account must be spent by the end of the year.
A similar option is to also divert pre-tax salary dollars into a health savings account (HAS). This is 100% tax-free! In order to be eligible to contribute to a health savings account, the employee must be covered by a high-deductible plan through their employer. In 2018 an employee was able to contribute up to a maximum of $3,450 for personal coverage or $6,900 for family coverage. The advantage of a health savings account over a flexible spending account is that any funds remaining at the end of the year may roll over into the following year. If you’re considering LASIK surgery, then this would be the preferred option as you can keep building the funds in this account until you reach the approximate amount you’ll need. The drawback to this method is that it does require patience for the contributor. Someone who is needing or wanting LASIK in the near future will not likely be able to save the desired amount to cover the procedure unless they are able to make significant contributions out of each paycheck.
With the rise in popularity of LASIK surgery also comes a greater number of ways for which the procedure may be paid. Gone are the days in which surgeons performing the procedure required payment in full upfront prior to actually scheduling the surgery. It is very common for prospective patients to arrange monthly payments through a third-party financial/loan company for a variety of procedures, including LASIK.
Once you have researched and found the surgeon you plan to use, you need to ask them for a list of financing companies which they will accept payments through. The good thing about using a third-party financing company is that they offer financing options with a range of payment plans ranging from just a few months to a few years. Typically, the shorter period (meaning a higher payment per month) will come with a lower interest rate; sometimes even a zero percent interest rate if the agreed upon terms are just a few months. A number of variables will also impact the financing options you have available to you such as your income/salary, credit history, and the amount you have for an initial down payment.
Another favorable financing option is to check with your surgeon of choice to see if they offer any in-house options. The surgeons who do so often use a major financing company to arrange for the payments or they are able to finance it through their own practice. Surgeons who perform LASIK and provide their own financing typically do not attach any interest; however, this may vary, and you should ask and carefully read the contract as there are some who do. For extra caution, if a surgeon is going to provide their own financing options then you need to make sure that they are reputable and are board-certified to avoid any gimmicks.
Factors which will impact the cost of LASIK surgery
As previously mentioned, the cost will vary from surgeon to surgeon and will depend on a number of factors. As with most medical procedures there is not an “industry standard rate” where a single set price will apply to everyone across the country. This section is meant to inform you of different variables which all will likely impact the price you may have to pay for a LASIK procedure.
The quality of your eyesight will be the first factor that will be taken into consideration. Obviously, for persons who have poorer vision the surgeon will need additional time or methods in order to increase the vision. Essentially, there is more work needing to be done due to the poor quality of someone’s eyesight. Example: person A may be at the beginning stages of having their eyesight deteriorate which the surgeon believes can be fixed quite easily and may only charge $1,000. Person B has been living with poor eyesight all their life and used glasses but now is considering LASIK. Their eyesight quality is significantly worse than person A’s which will require the surgeon more time and expertise. They may be charged $2,700 due to the amount of time and additional work which will be required for person B.
The longer a procedure has been around the more likelihood that technology advancements have been made in that field to assist surgeons in performing with higher accuracy and less time. This is also true in the LASIK eye surgery field. However, these upgraded technology systems come at a significant price to the surgeons who will pass these costs along to the patients. But don’t let that deter you because advancements in technology typically also lead to a decreased probability of surgical errors occurring during the procedure! It’s best when receiving quotes from multiple surgeons (we’ll cover that later) that you ask for an itemized breakdown of the costs as there will be other things in there as well such as pre-operation, pain medicine, recovery, etc.
Finally, the experience and “skill level” of a surgeon will also factor into the Lasik surgery price. The longer a surgeon has been performing the procedure the more likely they will also charge more for their services. This is a normal business practice not just limited to the LASIK eye surgery field. For instance, Surgeon A is just starting to offer LASIK surgery. Unfortunately for them, when trying to attract new patients they do not have the track record touting experience or an exact number of LASIK surgeries performed. This lack of experience may cause some concern of potential patients so Surgeon A will have to lower their price in hopes of attracting clients who are seeking value (money) over comfort of knowing the surgeon has done this many times before. On the other end of the spectrum, Surgeon B has been providing LASIK surgery for more than fifteen years and has completed thousands of successful procedures. Surgeon B will tout this experience and number of surgeries in their marketing literature as well in the consultation, or the “sales pitch,” showing the potential client that it’s worth it to pay a little more money to be in the hands of a seasoned surgeon with a proven record of success when dealing with something as delicate and important as eyesight. A lot of people will choose Surgeon B for mental and emotional comfort knowing they’re in the hands of a qualified and experienced surgeon who has performed this procedure many times.
Questions to ask which will provide more insight into the cost of LASIK surgery
During your consultation with a potential surgeon there are questions which you need to ask which will provide you better insight into what you’re actually being quoted. Remember, most medical professionals and surgeons do not “haggle” or negotiate their prices. These questions are not intended to do so; rather, simply provide you with as much information as possible to compare one surgeon to another. Be very skeptical of any surgeon or medical professional who is willing to negotiate or haggle a price of a procedure.
- “What is included with the LASIK eye surgery cost?” This may sound like a ridiculous question but it’s a needed one. Some surgeons may be providing the full array of pre-op, medicine, and post-op costs into the quote which is higher than another surgeon; however, the other surgeon is simply providing the cost of the actual surgery itself and their quote but will lower but, at the end of day, once all the pre-op, medicine, and post-op is figured in it will be more expensive.
- “What kind of technology or tools will you be using to perform the surgery?” This is the opportune time to determine whether or not the potential surgeon is using the most up-to-date available technology to perform the LASIK surgery. Essentially, this will boil down to your own personal preference of comfort of having the surgeon using the latest technology, which will cost more, or get a better price of a surgeon who is using older technology.
- “Is this quote for one or both eyes?” This is an extremely important question to ask as you could be stuck with double the amount you originally anticipated! Medical offices prepare quotes in a variety of ways. Some offices will present you with a quote per eye while others may present a quote with both eyes. Make sure that you ask for verbal confirmation as well as when you get a hard copy of the quote that you actually highlight the language which specifies what you’re looking for. How awful would it be to think that you’re getting both of your eyes done for $2,000 then after the surgery you get a bill for $4,000 because the $2,000 was “per eye,” not the entire operation? This happens more often than you think.
- “How many post-op visits are included in this quote?” As with any medical surgery there will be follow-up appointments to assess the success of the surgery and to ensure there are no lingering complications which may need addressed. The quote you are provided may include a certain number of post-op appointments. However, post-op appointments may not be included in the quote and these could significantly add up to the overall cost, which would be unexpected on your end. If the post-op appointments are not included in the quote, then you need to ask for something in writing which exhibits the cost of a post-op appointment. This will avoid both the shock of unexpected expenses as well as give you an estimated cost of how much you’re going to be paying for the entire process of the Lasik procedure.
- “Will the cost of any medicine needed after the surgery be my responsibility or covered in the quote?” Prescription medication will most likely be needed for after the surgery. Again, this is an area which varies from surgeon to surgeon. One surgeon may include in the quote the price of the needed prescribed medication after the surgery whereas another one will not. Don’t let this be a surprise cost after the surgery.
- “Will I be required to wear any special glasses or contact lenses after the surgery? If so, is this cost already built in to the quote or will they be extra and how much extra?” Depending on the surgeon’s techniques, preference, and the procedure needed by the patient, some people may be required to temporarily wear glasses or contact lenses while either their eyes heal or for their vision to be restored from the procedure. After the initial examination and consultation the surgeon should inform the prospective patient of whether or not they will be needed. Now, it is up to the potential patient to determine whether, if required, the glasses or contact lenses will be included in the quoted price. If they are not included then it’s imperative that the price is obtained because, depending on the level of need, it could be a few hundred dollars. This is another example of a price shock people experience post-surgery as they did not find out the information prior.
- “Do you have any patient references or testimonials from previous patients?” Some medical professionals have their patients sign a voluntary form allowing them to either collect testimonials or have prospective clients contact them to inquire about their experience. While this may be a good comforting mechanism to learn about how others viewed the surgery and overall experience, it is often extremely biased in favor of the surgeon. Obviously, it would be a bad business practice to provide a prospective client with contact information to a previous client who had a bad experience as it’ll likely sway them to stay away from their practice. A more reliable way to obtain information about previous patients’ experience is to look online. Previous patients will post their satisfaction and overall experience with a surgery and usually tell whether or not they would recommend others to that surgeon. However, be cognizant that consumers will typically only post a review online if they were either extremely satisfied or extremely dissatisfied.
Estimated costs of LASIK versus traditional corrective lenses
A lot of people may decide against LASIK surgery as the price is in the thousands of dollars whereas glasses or contact lenses are just a hundred or so dollars. However, what many people fail to take into consideration is that LASIK surgery is a one-time expense whereas eye examinations, glasses, contact lenses, and contact solution are all ongoing expenses which will be needed for the rest of a person’s life.
The figures below are purely estimates based upon national averages. Actual prices will depend on a number of different variables such as geographic location and unique medical needs of the person. Hypothetically, here are the annual expenses below:
- $150 for an eye exam
- $300 for glasses (frames and lenses)
- $530 for annual daily contacts
- $120 for contact solution
- TOTAL- $1,100
The annual total cost for a person who utilizes both glasses and contacts is approximately $1,100. Now, consider that a person could have LASIK surgery completed for a total cost of $4,000. If that person would have proceeded with the LASIK surgery, they would have saved money after year four. In theory, after 20 years of electing for LASIK surgery over all the traditional corrective lenses mentioned above, a person could have saved more than $20,000! People need to think of LASIK surgery as a long-term investment in both their health and financial outlook.
Selecting the right surgeon for your LASIK procedure
While cost is an important factor for most people who are considering any type of medical procedure, there are other factors which need to be taken into consideration other than just price. A few tips to choose the right surgeon to perform your LASIK procedure are below.
- Don’t automatically choose the first surgeon you research or have a consultation with. You wouldn’t buy a car from the first car lot without doing other comparative shopping, would you? The same holds true for when it’s time to find a surgeon for LASIK. Compare prices, read reviews, and get a better understanding of what each surgeon’s office has to offer.
- The internet has made comparative shopping a lot easier and also offers prospective patients the opportunity to read reviews from their previous clients.
- Finally, the odds are that you know someone who has had LASIK surgery. Start asking around with your family, friends, co-workers, and others in your social network. A simple question of, “I’m thinking of getting LASIK surgery. Do you know anyone who has had the procedure?” may afford you the opportunity to speak directly to someone in your social network without bias nor any financial incentive to lie or otherwise coerce you into either the procedure or a specific surgeon. These people will be extremely honest and, more than likely, will be more than happy to go into great details about their experience, be it positive or negative.