Welcome to 2010, everyone! I hope you are enjoying the start of a brand-new decade.
Readers of this blog know that it is a Bright Eyes News tradition to create an eye related Top Ten List of New Years Resolutions. For 2008, wrote about resolutions for eye health. For 2009, I wrote about resolutions for children's vision.
Thinking back to 2009, I've talked to a number of patients who had lost - or were about to lose - their jobs. It was an economically challenging year for many. So I thought this year I would take this issue head-on and make a list for people who want to save money on eyecare. But, as a doctor, it wouldn't be appropriate to just say, "Skip your exams, squint instead of updating your glasses, and wear your contacts until your eyes fall out." First, it isn't sound advice. Second, many of these actually cost more money in the long run.
So here is a list of New Years Resolutions to Save Money on Eyecare (Without Sacrificing Quality). I hope that you find it helpful.
1) Maintain a regular schedule for eye exams.
Many people feel that they are saving money by skipping their recommended eye exams. Did you know that eye exams are primarily about eye health, not just clarity of sight? There are some blinding conditions with no symptoms that can only be detected with a thorough eye exam. If caught early, they can often be treated early with much simpler treatments. This can save hundreds or thousands of dollars of complicated treatment, including ocular surgery. This doesn't even factor in the lost income and quality of life that can come from the loss of vision.
2) Get the exam that you pay for.
This may seem very obvious, but you should be sure that you are getting a complete and thorough eye exam. After all, if you are paying for something, you should get it. Sometimes people are reluctant to have their pupils dilated during an exam, but if they don't, the doctor cannot look for signs of disease in the back of the eye. Find out if there is a charge to come back and finish the exam at a later date. If you bring your child to eye doctor because you have concerns that vision may be affecting school performance, ask beforehand what type of tests are included. Not all vision plans will cover this specialized testing, so you should find out how much it costs.
3) Utilize InfantSEE.
As with all health issues, prevention is more cost effective than treatment. This is particularly true for infants. An eye early eye exam can detect potential problems such as extreme nearsightedness and farsightedness as well as strabismus and amblyopia. To assist in this, the American Optometric Association created the public health initiative called InfantSEE. Optometrists who participate in the program will provide one visual and eye health exam to infants between six and twelve months old at no charge.
4) Understand your Vision Plan, Medical Insurance, Flex and HSAs.
Some medical plans have coverage for eye exams. Some plans specifically cover medical problems such as eye infections and glaucoma. Other plans are specifically for vision and will have coverage for a vision exam, glasses, or contacts, but not medical visits. If you or your employer pays for these benefits, use them wisely. Find out what the annual benefits are. Ask the doctor's staff to help you maximize your benefits. For example, you are getting both glasses and contact lenses and your plan only covers one of these, you may save more money applying the benefits to the glasses. Also know that you cannot ask that the vision plan be billed on a different date than you actually received the service. However, you CAN use your Flex and HSA accounts for eyecare and optical purchases.
5) Select your eyewear carefully.
When you are picking out eyewear, try on the styles and brands that you like. But keep in mind the purpose of each pair of glasses you buy. You might love the Tiffany & Co. frames with crystals, but if you work or play hard, it might make more sense to get some less expensive frames that are built to be durable. Costa Del Mar sunglasses are durable, but if you are prone to losing them(or dropping them in the gulf!) spend a extra few dollars on a glasses strap. And when shopping around, be sure you compare apples to apples. A discount store or online retailer may be cheaper, but consider material quality and customer service when making your choice. Will your optical service remake lenses in the case of an error? What happens if the coating flakes off within a few months?
6) Get the right lens materials and coatings.
Find out what the doctor or optician recommends for lens options, but don't just assume that more expensive is better. Some lens options are worth a little extra: Crizal Alize or VisoXC will improve the clarity of your lenses, reduce glare, and resist scratches. Some fabulously high-tech lens materials are essential for someone with a very high prescription but may be a waste of money if you have a low prescription. We always recommend UV protection for all general purpose glasses, but if you only use glasses for reading indoors, then it may not be needed. I encourage you to get glasses that meet your needs, but that doesn't mean that every pair has to have all the bells and whistles. If the optical staff do not explain your options to your satisfaction - ask. They may be able to help you save money when they understand how the glasses are to be used.
7) Try multipurpose lenses.
Do you own just one pair of shoes? Not likely, because most people have different shoes for different purposes. Your eyes also have different needs and no one single pair of glasses will meet all those needs. But you don't need to own a baker's dozen pairs of glasses either. If you have a different prescription for reading and distance (like most people over 45), save money with just one pair of bifocals or progressives. In Florida, it is best to have a dedicated pair of prescription sunglasses. But eyewear with clip-on sunglasses or Transitions (that darken in the sun) are a cost-effective and protect your eyes from UV and bright sun.
8) Make use of your warranties.
If you are spending hard-earned money on glasses, you expect them to work well for you. Always inquire about what warranty is included in your purchase. At Bright Eyes, all of our eyewear frames come with a 2 year, unconditional breakage warranty. If you get premium scratch coating, it also includes 2 year scratch warranty. See if your optical offers similar coverage and if they do, make use of it.
9) Learn about your contacts.
Talking to your optometrist about your contact lens options. Monthly lenses may be a cost-saving option for full-time wearers; daily lenses are a good deal for occasional contact wearers, especially when you factor in the solution costs. RGP (hard) contacts frequently outperform their soft counterparts and can be up to half as expensive.
10) Consider alternative financing options.
Many offices, including ours, accept Care Credit, a health care credit card with options for 6-months interest-free financing. This is helpful for more expensive treatments not covered by insurances, such as Corneal Reshaping (orthokeratology), an method of providing glasses- free vision, or vision therapy, which allows people to overcome visual challenges to live life up to their potential. Even eyeglasses and eye exams qualify for Care Credit purchases. Ask about Care Credit or similar programs at your doctor's office.
I hope that this has been helpful in ensuring that you get best eyecare possible! Happy New Year!
Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care