Best vision insurance 2023: Coverage for your vision care needs

Best vision insurance 2022: Coverage for your vision care needs
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

The best vision insurance can help cover the cost of your ongoing vision care, from basic exams and vision corrections to elective eye surgery and more. It’s important to remember that even the most comprehensive of policies won’t cover the cost of all treatment, but it can significantly lower the overall amount you pay – and the ability to spread the cost can be invaluable, too. 

Vision insurance can be particularly suitable for those who have long-term eye care needs, and with an estimated 194m people in the US needing vision correction, that’s a lot of people who could benefit from affordable vision insurance policies. The cost will of course vary between providers and the kind of policy you choose, with the level of cover and included features being key. Alternatively, you could always consider a vision discount plan, which offers discounts to eye care providers instead of allowances with co-pays. 

When looking for the best vision insurance for your needs, make sure to be realistic about your current eye health and your ongoing requirements, together with how often you need exams and updated prescriptions. Consider if you could benefit from any additional features – for example, some of the top vision insurance brands partner with retailers that offer the best eye glasses and contact lenses online – and make sure to check for exclusions, such as restrictions on any benefits or out-of-network providers. 

Finding the top-rated provider will of course be essential, which is where this guide can help. We’ve rounded up the very best vision insurance providers and plans that can cater to a variety of needs, whether you’re on a budget, are after a straightforward policy or could benefit from additional features, as well as highlighting the best provider overall. And while you’re considering your long-term health needs, why not check out the best health insurance companies, too.  

1. VSP: Best vision insurance company overall

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Best vision insurance companies: VSP

(Image credit: VSP)
With a range of plans, this is the best vision insurance company overall

Reasons to buy

Long-standing pedigree and reputation
Second largest network of doctors
Low copay

Reasons to avoid

High premiums

There’s a huge range of vision care plans on offer here, including individual coverage starting from $13 a month, as well as employer coverage (so arranged with VSP through your employer). The individual coverage plans are aimed at self-employed or part-time employed workers, as well as people changing jobs and those who are retired. 

When choosing the best vision insurance plan for you at VSP (formerly VSP Direct), you'll be asked to select between three different options when selecting an individual coverage policy: 'Need coverage and never had VSP', 'Need coverage and have had VSP before', and 'Losing my VSP coverage'. The latter is applicable to people who may have had VSP insurance through an employer but may now be facing a change in coverage circumstances.

VSP advertises itself as a not-for-profit vision provider, and has created a Plan Wizard, which uses questions such as where you live and whether you use glasses or contacts or both, and what co-pay features are important to you, to help you drill down into the best vision insurance plan options.

2. EyeMed: Best vision insurance for access to a big network of providers

Best vision insurance companies: EyeMed Vision Insurance

(Image credit: EyeMed)
The best vision insurance company backed by a huge eyewear brand

Reasons to buy

One of the main big two networks
Real choice in the range

Reasons to avoid

High premiums

Specialist vision care insurer EyeMed is responsible for one of the largest doctor networks in vision care, and is also backed by the world’s largest eyewear company. Of course those reasons alone aren't enough to feature it in our guide to the best vision insurance companies, but EyeMed’s eye care policies are well thought out and start at very affordable premiums. 

When you get to the higher tiers it becomes pricey, but you are getting good value for money and excellent service from a trusted company. Moreover, the allowances are very generous and a host of additional discounts are available for when you’ve spent your allowance. We love the wide choice of payment options on offer too. 

3. Humana Vision: Best vision insurance on a budget 

Best vision insurance companies: Humana

(Image credit: Humana)
The best eye health plan provider for those on a budget

Reasons to buy

Low premium

Reasons to avoid

Lack of options

Humana is a big name in the health finance sector, so you can feel safe handing over your hard-earned money in return for a decent vision insurance plan. Humana is also one of the largest government contractors, and we love its policy because its one of the least complicated vision care plans we’ve come across. There's even a quick quote process to give you a very speedy overview of what you might end up paying.

There’s only one policy for individuals that costs $15.99. For this you get a yearly eye exam for $15 and a contact lens exam, should you need one, for $40. You also get a yearly allowance toward standard contact lenses or a set of eyeglass lenses with minor copay. If you don’t spend out of network, this can be a simple and easy way to stay in budget while feeling confident that your vision care needs are being met.

In addition to the benefits listed above, there are options for speciality eyeglass lenses, such as progressive bifocals and anti-scratch lenses, and potential discounts on services like Lasik eye surgery.

4. EyeBenefits: A membership-based savings program

Best vision insurance companies: EyeBenefits

(Image credit: EyeBenefits)
A members discount scheme to enhance the best eye insurance plans

Reasons to buy

Low, annual membership fee
Discounts as often as you need them
LASIK included

Reasons to avoid

Not a traditional insurance policy

Technically it’s a bit of a cheat adding EyeBenefits to a list of the best vision insurance companies because what's on offer here is savings, not insurance. However, it can be an effective way to enhance the benefits of your vision insurance plan. That's because, for a low yearly fee ($30 for individuals or $45 for families), you will receive discounts at locations affiliated with the EyeBenefits network. 

These include Pearle Vision, Lenscrafters, and America’s Best, saving you money on various eye health products and services. When run in addition to your vision insurance, you could increase your overall savings on eyeglasses, contact lens purchases or the cost of elective eye surgery. The downside is that you need to have EyeBenefits-associated locations in your area.

EyeBenefits may also be a good fit for you if you need benefits more often than your normal vision insurance allows. For example, some plans will only cover exams or lenses every other year, and frames even less frequently. Perhaps EyeBenefits’ biggest allure is the large discounts it provides for Lasik surgery. According to the EyeBenefits’ website, members can enjoy up to 50% off the cost of their Lasik surgical procedures, which is very generous.

5. Direct Vision Insurance: Best vision insurance company for discounts

Best vision insurance companies: Direct Vision Insurance

(Image credit: Direct Vision Insurance)
Unlock extra savings with discounts from associated eye health companies

Reasons to buy

VSP or EyeMed cover
Flexibility and choice
Bricks and mortar support

Reasons to avoid

Enrolment fee

We like the flexibility of Direct Vision Insurance’s policies, underwritten by Ameritas Life Insurance, and with access to other associated companies such as EyeMed and VSP, plus discounts and time-saving features. For example, if you order your eyewear from Glasses (opens in new tab), you can scan your eye prescription and let Direct Vision Insurance deal with the bill. 

Once you get your glasses, any adjustments needed can be carried out at a local branch of Lenscrafters. It's simple to get a quote with Direct Vision Insurance too – enter your zip code and whether you're looking for solo coverage, for you and a partner or you and your family, and you'll receive an approximate instant quote. Of course, you'll need to add in extra details to get a more realistic idea of what vision insurance might cost you here.

There's also an online chat function with a licensed agent who can answer questions about how to pick out the best vision insurance plan for you.

6. Anthem Blue View Vision: Best vision insurance company for simple policies

Best vision insurance companies: Anthem Blue View Vision

(Image credit: Anthem Blue View Vision)
Three simple vision insurance plans at reasonable prices

Reasons to buy

Backed by a huge insurance company
Linkable to your existing health or dental
Medicare/Medicaid supported

Reasons to avoid

Poor website

Anthem’s most appealing feature is how easy its tiers are to understand. Simply put, as they go up in monthly premium, they increase how much they’re willing to cover. Fees for adding family members are low, and both exams and new lenses are covered on a yearly basis. 

However, Anthem isn’t available in every US state. If you happen to live in an Anthem area, it’s one of the best vision insurance plans you can have, but otherwise, you’ll have to keep searching. 

7. Ameritas Vision: Best vision insurance for add-ons

Best vision insurance companies: Ameritas

(Image credit: Ameritas)
Options to add your vision insurance plan to an existing or new dental plan

Reasons to buy

Large general insurer
Low premiums
Buy together with dental

Reasons to avoid

Not a vision specialist
Ugly website

Ameritas offers two plans that offer different levels of service. A basic EyeMed plan that gives you access to an allowance for new glasses and contacts every two years, and a slightly more generous VSP plan that has higher allowances and new glasses every year. 

There are easy options to add your vision plan onto an existing or new dental plan, which could be a way of consolidating your providers and saving a slice of money in the process. Ameritas’ offering comes with a reliable pedigree, known networks, a low premium and a simple range of choices.

What is vision insurance?

A good vision insurance plan helps lower the cost of eye exams, glasses and contacts, as well the overall costs of LASIK (laser eye surgery). As mentioned earlier in our best vision insurance guide, your other option is a vision discount plan, which, as the name suggests, gives you discounts to providers. These are purchased separately from insurance. 

The cost and coverage of plans varies between vision insurance companies. For example, while some require a co-pay on eye exams, other plans will cover the cost completely. Let’s look at this in a little more detail now… 

What does vision insurance include and exclude?

The best vision insurance plans typically include coverage for yearly eye examinations, as well as a contribution towards the cost of lenses and frames. As with the best Medicare Part D Plans (opens in new tab), there are higher-tier plans available, and these typically cover some of the cost of contacts fittings and LASIK surgery. You may come across price limits for frames and contacts though, so watch out for these.

LASIK is considered elective surgery, so most vision insurance companies won’t cover the cost fully. However, some offer coupons to help lower the cost of LASIK. Non-elective eye surgery that has been deemed medically necessary, such as cataract removal, is normally covered by your health insurance instead.

Depending on the vision insurance you pick, you may find that your favorite eyewear brand isn’t covered. That’s because some plans only cover specific brands or price ranges. As always, read the exclusions fully before signing up so that you aren’t disappointed.

Choosing the best vision insurance company for you

When it comes down to selecting the best vision insurance for you, focus on four key areas: your age, medical history, where you live, and how much you can comfortably afford. If you can find a vision cae plan that meets your needs in all four of those categories, snap it up, but you’ll want a good fit for at least three.

First, your age. The older you get, the more often you should have a complete eye exam. Remember, this isn’t just about degrading vision; eye exams also catch medical issues like high blood pressure, cataracts, and diabetes. If you’re under 40 and have perfect vision, you can get by with an exam every 5 to 10 years, but if you’re over 65 you’ll want a yearly check-up. Of course, your medical history will influence how often you visit. Bad vision or a condition that could adversely affect your eye health will require more frequent exams. 

It’s extremely important to check that the insurance you’re researching works in your area or your provider of choice. Most sites should allow you to enter your ZIP code to review coverage areas. 

Some plans may offer only some benefits in certain locations, so review the details very carefully before committing. Lastly, there’s the monthly premium to consider. A lower monthly premium typically means you’ll spend more on whatever services you end up needing, and the reverse is also generally true. 

What to look for with the best vision insurance

Ultimately, we can’t stress enough how important it is to do proper research when you’re buying a vision care package. Hidden extras can mount up and the wrong policy can make a substantial difference to your quality of life. 

Look carefully at all the options available, ask your friends and do some disaster planning to ensure you and your loved ones are going to be getting the optimum care you deserve when it comes to the crunch.

Benefits worth paying for with the best vision insurance

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. The best vision insurance companies 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.

The best vision insurance companies 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.

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 where to buy the eyeglasses 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.

How much does the best 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.

When is Open Enrollment for new vision insurance plans?

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.

Susan Arendt

Susan Arendt is a writer, editor, and consultant with more than two decades of experience from companies including AOL, Conde Nast, and The New York Times. You can find her most recent written work on Wired (opens in new tab), or look for her on Twitter.  Be prepared to see too many pictures of her dogs.