We spent 40 hours researching vision insurance, comparing premiums and benefits, and consulting with experts to learn about what to look for in a vision policy.
This meant looking at premiums, providers, benefits, copays and even eyeglass frame allowances. We favored companies with large networks and low costs. Benefits are also important, especially for people who might go to a doctor more than once a year or want more than one pair of lenses.
In partnership with VSP
VSP has the best benefits, offering the best allowances on frames and contacts as well as quality copays on exams and lenses. Though it has higher premiums, the benefits offset that cost.VIEW DEAL ON VSP
If you’re paying for an insurance plan, you want benefits that are worth paying for. An annual eye exam, which is recommended for most adults, is one of the main benefits, and most insurers offer a copay that covers most of the cost. Many insurers cover all but $10 to $15 of the exam cost, though some offer a discount instead. We prefer insurers who offer copays, since they save you the most money.
Another common benefit is an allowance for frames or contact lenses. Typically, an insurer covers the cost up to a certain limit, usually around $100, though some premium plans cover up to $200. If your frames or contacts cost more than that amount, you pay the difference. However, some insurers apply a discount to the remaining cost.
Most insurers have a broad network of approved providers. In case your regular ophthalmologist isn’t part of the network, some insurers extend coverage to out-of-network providers, though these benefits are often weaker.
No matter which company you pick, it’s important to select a company that meets your individual eye care needs.
VSP Individual Vision Plans
VSP has the best benefits, offering the best allowances on frames and contacts as well as quality copays on exams and lenses. Though it has higher premiums, the benefits offset that cost.
EyeMed is the vision insurer with the lowest premiums, especially for standard plans. It also has a strong package of benefits, including no copays on eye exams.
With low premiums and an excellent set of benefits, United Healthcare is a good choice for vision insurance. It has a broad network of providers, including retailers like Costco and Target.
1. Best benefits: VSP Individual vision plans
Though its premiums are more expensive than other insurers’, VSP has the best benefits.
So, while you may pay slightly more each month, you’ll save in the long run by paying less for glasses, contacts and lenses.
A standard plan costs about $15 a month, though that varies depending on the state you live in. Premium plans cost $30 a month, and a family plan costs $39 a month. There are no enrollment fees.
Its premiums are higher than other insurers’, but you’ll see savings through VSP’s benefits. All eye exams have a copay of $15, which mean you only pay $15 and VSP covers the rest. You get an allowance of $150 for either frames or contacts, so VSP covers that amount and you pay anything beyond that limit. This is the highest allowance we saw, and it is better than the percentage discounts some competitors offer.
VSP also covers you if you go to an out-of-network provider. Eye exams are covered up to $45, frames up to $70 and contacts up to $105. VSP’s network encompasses more than 30,000 providers, so you should be able to find one in network nearby.
2. Best value: EyeMed
Cost is one of the biggest considerations when choosing vision insurance.
It’s important to consider both premiums and the costs the insurer covers. After comparing these factors, we found that EyeMed offers the best value.
EyeMed offers several plan options, including EyeMed Healthy, EyeMed Bold and EyeMed Bright, the latter of which is the insurer’s family plan. EyeMed Healthy is its most basic plan and the one we compared to other plans. It has a low premium, only $5 a month, and is one of the most affordable options we saw.
The EyeMed Healthy plan has good benefits, the best of which is a $0 copay on an eye exam. This means you can get your annual eye exam and not pay nothing, which is enough to recoup the cost of your premium. The Healthy plan’s benefits for frames, lenses and contacts aren’t quite as good as other insurers’ – you get 35 percent off frames, 15 percent off contact lenses and $55 off single-vision lenses. If you prefer more expansive benefits, the Bold Vision plan, which costs $17.50 a month, includes a $130 allowance for frames and contacts.
EyeMed has a network of 44,000 providers, including retailers like Target. It also provides benefits at out-of-network providers.
3. Most providers: UnitedHealthcare
After comparing premiums, benefits and networks, we found that United Healthcare has the most providers.
We looked at the cost of a standard plan, a premium plan and a family plan and found low premiums on each of them. A standard plan runs close to $12 a month, and while you can find a lower-price plan, the benefits won’t be nearly as strong. For expanded benefits, a premium plan costs close to $16. Family plans cost close to $19, which is among the lowest prices we saw for plans that cover you, a spouse and children. Unlike some insurers, United Healthcare does not charge an enrollment fee.
We mostly focused on standard plans, since they are the most common. A standard plan through United Healthcare includes a $10 copay on all eye exams – you only pay $10, and the insurance covers the rest. The standard plan also covers up to $150 for new frames and $125 for contacts. The premium plan has a more generous allowance on contact lenses, covering $150, but that is the main difference between the two.
United Healthcare also provides some out-of-network benefits. You get a $50 allowance for exams performed by out-of-network providers, and a $75 allowance for frames. United Healthcare’s network consists of 88,000 providers, making it likely you can find someone in network.
4. Best for Californians: Vision Plan of America
If you live in California, Vision Plan of America is a good option for vision insurance.
It works with over 452 providers in the Golden State and has low premiums, so if you need affordable vision insurance, it’s worth considering.
The standard plan, called A Pair and a Spare, costs $6. Vision Plan of America’s VIP Premier plan, which has more coverage, costs $12. There is an enrollment fee of $16.
The $6 plan includes a $36 copay on an annual eye exam and a 25-percent discount on frames, while the more expensive VIP Premier plan includes no charges for an eye exam and a $100 allowance for frames. The discounts and copays for contacts vary depending on the brand.
5. Best for families: Humana
Some insurers may have good plans for individuals, but when you add a spouse and dependents, Humana is one of the best options. Its Vision Focus Plan has a monthly premium of $26.99, which is lower than other insurers charge for their family plans. One drawback of choosing Humana is it charges a $35 enrollment fee.
Humana has good benefits, the most attractive of which is a $10 copay on your annual eye exam – one of the lowest exam copays we saw. Humana also has a $100 allowance on frames, and after you hit this allowance, you pay 80 percent of the cost.
Why Trust Us?
We’ve been writing about vision insurance for eight years. For this update, we looked at insurance providers with plans you can purchase at any time and that don’t solely provide plans through employers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 4 percent of people without health care have optional vision insurance. Compare this with the fact that 14 million Americans over the age of 12 have some form of vision impairment.
Even something as minor as an annual eye exam can be costly if you’re uninsured – as much as $250 or more, depending on if you plan on getting fitted for contacts. The cost of one year’s vision insurance premiums end up being less than one exam, making vision insurance one of the more cost-effective types of health insurance available. If you work part time or are a freelancer, vision insurance is still an affordable option and one you should consider, especially if you have a family history of eye disease or work at a job that is visually demanding.
How Much Does Vision Insurance Cost?
Premiums are usually paid monthly, though some insurers have you pay the yearly cost upfront. For the most basic plans, we saw premiums as high as $15 a month and as low as $2.50 a month. Most, though not all, insurers offer a premium-tier option with stronger benefits and higher premiums. The average premium for a higher-tier plan is around $20. Adding a spouse or dependents to your plan makes for an average premium of $22.
Best of the Rest
EyeBenefits: This company is a low cost option with fewer benefits. You get minimal discounts on exams and lenses and but the membership fee is affordable. It can also be used at more than 12,000 providers.
Is Vision Insurance Worth It?
The American Optometric Organization recommends adults ages 18 to 64 get a vision exam every two years unless they have a risk of ocular disease or work in a job that is visually demanding. In those cases, annual eye exams are recommended. So, your relative health can determine if vision insurance is worth having, especially if you don’t have insurance through your workplace.
According to FAIR Health, a nonprofit that collects information about healthcare costs, an eye exam can cost between $128 and $200, depending on if you’re a new or established patient. Of the companies we reviewed, the average exam copay is $20 a month. These monthly premiums add up to a yearly cost of $60 to $180, so getting your annual exam pays for the insurance.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, vision insurance saves you even more. Typically, an insurer provides an allowance that covers the entire cost of frames, lenses or contacts. You pay anything beyond that cost, though many offer a discount on the remainder. You can also get glasses online, which are often more affordable than those at the doctor’s office. Check out our picks for the best places to buy glasses online.
Getting a vision policy, whether through your job or on an individual plan, usually pays for itself with just an exam and glasses or contact lenses. If your employer offers vision insurance as part of its benefits package, we recommend taking advantage of that, since the premiums are lower than what you’ll pay when buying an individual plan.
When Is Open Enrollment for 2019 Vision Policies?
Unlike health insurance, you can enroll in most vision policies anytime during the year. Companies that exclusively offer vision or dental insurance allow you to enroll whenever you want. Some health policies include dental or vision coverage, and you must sign up for those during open enrollment. Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 unless you’re enrolling through your employer, in which case it specifies the open enrollment period.
If you don’t get vision insurance through your employer’s health insurance, it's a good idea to get it through one of the providers we reviewed rather than include it with your health policy during the open enrollment period. Companies that exclusively offer vision insurance have better benefits than general health insurance companies.
Not every plan is available outside of open enrollment. Some, like the individual plans offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, are only available during open enrollment. You can also enroll in a plan if you experience a qualifying event such as the birth of a child, marriage or divorce.
Enrolling in vision insurance is easy – you can sign up through the provider’s online portal. In addition, you can use the insurer’s website to find nearby doctors and clinics who accept your vision insurance.
If you’re over the age of 20, it's recommended you get an eye exam at least every five years and more often if you wear glasses or contact lenses. With premiums around $15 a month for individual policies, vision insurance is one of the more affordable types of insurance.