Nearly 75% of adults use either glasses or contacts with glasses costing anywhere from $50 to $1,000. Vision insurance typically covers some of the costs on services (such as eye exams) and prescription eyewear, but rarely pays for everything 100%. It's best for those who have recurring vision conditions but may not be useful if the monthly premiums surpass your eye wellness costs each year. Plans can vary wildly — watch out for notable exclusions such as the ability to only use your benefits every 24 months or the inability to use out of network providers. To help you find a vision plan suited for your needs, we’ve compiled a list of the best based on coverage, caps, price, and more.
The 6 Best Vision Insurance Companies of 2020
Vision Service Plan: Best Overall
Founded in 1955 by a group of optometrists, Vision Service Plan (VSP) is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and is one of the largest vision insurance providers in the nation. It offers the largest network of independent doctors, with 73,000 access points at nearly 23,000 locations. We chose this as the best overall plan because it offers a variety of tiered plans, competitive pricing, and has a large number of locations across the U.S.
Plan members have access to in- and out-of-network coverage, except for those who reside in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington State. Enrollment is open year-round and you can use your benefits as soon as the next business day.
Depending on your state of residence, there are different tiered plans, though VSP’s standard plan is available nationwide. We’ve seen standard plans as low as $11.20 a month — VSP claims its members see an average of $278 in annual savings. Benefits include a $150 allowance for contact lenses or frames ($170 if you choose certain brand names), plus a 20% discount on the amount over your allowance.
There are optional lens enhancements you can add to all the plans for additional fees (scratch-resistant, anti-glare, light to dark tinting, etc.). However, some of their more premium tiers offer larger discounts (monthly costs also go up). For example, the EasyOptions tier offers custom benefits options like a higher frame allowance or and the Enhanced tier means you don't pay extra out of pocket costs for impact or scratch-resistant glasses. Exam copays are $15 (not covered in the EyewearOnly120 plan if your state offers it) and basic lens copays are $25. VSP does not cover LASIK but offers a service coupon to certain providers for a discount.
EyeMed: Runner-Up, Best Overall
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, EyeMed has an A (Excellent) financial strength rating from AM Best and offers a number of network providers throughout the U.S., including LensCrafters®, Pearle Vision®, Target Optical®, and many independent providers.
This vision insurance company is another contender, though we placed it as a runner up because it doesn’t offer as high of an allowance for frames or contacts and there aren’t as many locations with only 18,000 across the country.
Individual plans are available in 48 states and there are no waiting periods once you successfully enroll. EyeMed offers three different tiers: EyeMed Healthy, EyeMed Bold, and EyeMed Bright. EyeMed Healthy, the insurer’s lowest tier, offers plans starting at $5 a month and offers discounts on frames, contact lenses, LASIK, and other services with no copay for a comprehensive eye exam. The two higher tiers offer a covered allowance for contacts and glasses up to $130 and $200, respectively. Plus, you’ll have a $10 copay for comprehensive exams and a $20 copay for lenses. EyeMed Bold starts at $17.50 and EyeMed Bright starts at $30 a month.
All tiers have a five percent rate discount if you pay annually (though it may differ depending on your state of residence).
UnitedHealthcare (Golden Rule Insurance): Best Wellness Eye Care
Part of the UnitedHealth Group of companies, UnitedHealthcare is one of the largest U.S. health insurance providers, and we picked this as the best wellness services eye care provider because the low-priced premium and minimal copay for glasses pay for itself when used annually.
You can choose from two plans with no waiting period after enrollment. Both plans offer a $150 allowance for frames or contact lenses when in-network and up to $75 when out-of-network, plus $10 copay for your annual eye exam and lenses, both with in-network providers. UnitedHealthcare also provides a 35% discount for LASIK procedures. The difference between both plans is that Plan B lets you select an allowance for both contact lenses and glasses, whereas Plan A you can only choose one. Plan A can be as low as $10.40 per month at and Plan B as low as $14.30 per month.
Read the fine print carefully as some policies you won’t be able to cancel within the first 12 months.
Their vision insurance is underwritten by Golden Rule Insurance and is rated A (Excellent) by AM Best. It's available throughout the U.S. except for Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New York, New Mexico, and Virginia.
Direct Vision Insurance: Best Price
Direct Vision’s policies are underwritten by Ameritas, who is one of the largest insurance companies in the nation. Ameritas serves over four million customers and has an A (Excellent) rating from AM Best and an A+ rating from Standard & Poor’s.
We chose Direct Vision as an insurer with the best price because of its low premium and deductibles, keeping annual costs down for individuals, couples, and families. Plans start as low as $9.22 per month for individuals and you get access to plans and discounts that are offered by two of the largest vision insurance companies in the U.S. Both the VSP and EyeMed plans have two tiers and all include a $15 deductible for annual eye exams, a $1 for standard lenses, a $25 deductible for specialized lenses, and a $150 allowance for frames or contacts (with no deductible or copay). The main difference between tiers and providers is how often you can use your benefits.
There are no waiting periods and Direct Vision offers a 30-day customer satisfaction guarantee — if you’re not happy with your plan, you can cancel it within that time frame.
Humana: Best Value (Coverage for Price)
Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, Humana has an AM Best rating of BBB- and a Standard & Poor's rating of BBB+. Vision insurance plans are available in Washington, D.C. and all states except Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
What we like about Humana is the simplicity of their plans and the discount you get if you go over the contacts or frames allowance (rare with other companies). You'll also receive 20% off your balance over your frames allowance, as well as other add-ons and services. For contact lenses, you'll receive a 15% discount off your balance over the allowance. If it's deemed that your contacts are medically necessary, Humana will cover the cost of materials, but if you have a history of corneal or elective refractive surgery, you won’t be covered. These discounts only apply to in-network providers.
You need to pay a $35 enrollment fee (none if you bundle it with their dental plans), then your monthly premium starts at $11.49 per month with no waiting period. You'll need to pay a $15 copay for an in-network annual eye exam, $40 copay for standard contact lens exams, a $25 copay for standard plastic lenses, and lens options starting at a $15 copay.
Ameritas: Best for Families
Founded in 1887 and originally called The Old Line Bankers Life Insurance Company of Nebraska, Ameritas serves over four million customers and has received high ratings from AM Best and Standard & Poor’s. Plans are available nationwide and there are no waiting periods.
Ameritas offers two tiers to their plans and are affordable for families, starting at $23.47 per month. All tiers offer free eye exams every 12 months (covered in full), but the lower tier only offers contacts or eyeglass lenses and frames every 24 months, a $25 eye exam deductible, and a $130 allowance for frames or contacts. The higher tier offers a lower copay for eye exams at $10 and a $150 allowance for frames or contacts every 12 months.
What Is Vision Insurance?
Vision insurance is a supplemental health insurance plan that can help you reduce your vision care-related expenses. These plans will cover some products and services such as glasses and eye exams — additional benefits may differ between insurers.
These types of plans — whether you’re purchasing an individual plan or as an optional rider with your regular health insurance — are best for those who have recurring vision expenses such as purchasing contact lenses regularly or those who require annual eye exams. Plans may have copays or deductibles — copays are a fixed amount you pay out of pocket before the remaining balance is covered by your insurer, whereas a deductible is the amount you’ll need to pay each year before your vision insurance kicks in.
For example, if you have a $10 copay for eye exams, that’s all you need to pay when you visit your eye doctor, your insurance will cover the rest. Whereas if you have a $300 deductible, you’ll need to spend that amount on any qualifying expense within a calendar year before insurance will pay for whatever’s covered in your vision plan.
Even those who plan on going through LASIK or a similar type of eye surgery may find vision insurance useful. That's because you may be able to save a considerable sum of money compared to paying for vision expenses out of pocket. LASIK isn’t covered by regular health insurance, so vision insurance may offer a discount on services if you’re using an in-network doctor.
What Does Vision Insurance Typically Include?
Vision insurance plans include benefits can help you in detecting eye disease or serious vision problems early and make maintaining good eyesight a bit more affordable. This includes costs related to contacts, eyeglasses, and annual eye exams. Plus, many plans offer discounts for LASIK procedures — health insurance doesn’t necessarily cover it because it isn’t considered medically necessary.
Visits with in-network doctors may require pre-authorization before your exam, whereas for out-of-network ones you may need to pay upfront then submit receipts for reimbursement, assuming your provider covers it.
What Does Vision Insurance Typically Exclude?
Vision insurance plans don’t cover the treatment of eye diseases — that’s usually covered under your regular health insurance plan. In other words, health insurance typically covers eye care when it’s related to a medical condition. Let’s say you have eye complications from diabetes, diagnosed high blood pressure, or cataracts, then your health insurance may cover the eye care, whereas vision insurance may take care of the eye exam if your medical insurance doesn’t.
What are the Expected Costs of Vision Insurance?
Monthly premiums from the companies mentioned above are relatively inexpensive, averaging around $10 for the lowest tiered plans. All plans include an annual eye exam and allowances for eyeglasses or contact, though the exact amount permitted and copay amounts differ between insurers.
You can expect to pay more — some as high as around $30 a month — for higher tiers of coverage. Companies with higher-tiered plans typically include a bigger allowance for glasses and contact lenses, lower copays, and additional discounts on other products and services (like LASIK surgery).
Is Paying for Vision Insurance Worth It?
Maintaining vision health is crucial to your overall health. For example, during routine eye exams, doctors may be able to detect serious health problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Getting diagnosed early could mean lowering overall medical treatment costs.
Even something as simple as impaired vision can affect your day-to-day life — think mobility, normal communication, and even your independence. For children, having an undiagnosed vision impairment can hinder their long-term health, academic, and social achievement.
Plus, paying for vision may be worth it from a cost-savings perspective. If your vision care needs outweigh the cost of insurance, then it might be a good idea to consider getting some form of coverage.
For example, your vision insurance premium costs you $124 each year. A basic eye exam can cost around $100 but you only pay $10 as your copay. You find out you need new glasses and it costs you $200 for the pair with standard lenses. You need to pay out $50 since you only receive a $150 allowance. That means you only pay a total of $184 for the year (including the copay and the amount above your allowance) instead of the $300 it would cost without insurance, saving you $116.
How We Chose the Vision Insurance Companies
We looked at 11 vision insurance companies and found ones that offer fairly low copays for eye exams, a competitive discount for contact lenses and eyeglasses, and LASIK discounts. We then narrowed it down to ones that offered the best pricing and larger retail and private doctor networks. We also eliminated companies that don’t allow members to use their benefits each year (for example, some companies only allow you to use your frames allowance every 24 months).
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