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The Cost of Vision Care—Can Coverage Work for You?

Posted on January 16th, 2017
Woman researching vision care insurance coverage

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) estimates the total price tag of vision loss in Canada at $19.1 billion per year. The staggering number reiterates how important it is to maintain the health of our eyes as best we can. Vision loss can be detected and managed through regular eye exams, which can detect diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and early-stage diabetic retinopathy.


Is vision care covered by public health care?

Coverage for vision services is dependent on many factors, such as province of residence, patient age, and medical necessity. If you are under the age of 19 or over the age of 64, some provincial health care provides routine eye exam coverage. There are some exceptions based on clinical need, such as patients with glaucoma, diabetes, or cataracts who may need additional “follow up” procedures. For most of us, provincial health care covers only medically-necessary optometric services. These situations include monitoring for issues like those associated with diabetes, glaucoma and retinal disease, or sudden changes in vision or acute pain in the eye.


How much does vision care cost?

The cost of an uninsured eye exam can range from approximately $95 to $175, depending on the services provided. Other optometric services, such as contact lens assessments and vision therapy, are not insured by provincial health care and are billed directly to patients.The purchase of eyeglasses and contact lenses will vary considerably depending upon the supplier, quality of materials, frames and lenses.


How common is vision coverage in Canada?

We all know vision care should not be neglected, but the truth for many Canadians is that vision coverage isn’t always offered in basic employee insurance benefits. Studies indicate that although employers are aware of the fact that their employees desire better vision coverage, current offerings aren’t there yet. If your employer doesn’t offer a flexible health spending account option where you can allot money to any health-related expenses, purchasing additional vision coverage may be worth considering.


What’s included?

Good coverage allows employees to spend up to $800 every two years on glasses, contact lenses, and laser eye surgery, and receive an eye exam every two years. Typically, vision plans are subject to a maximum of $300 on glasses or contacts within a two- or three-year eligibility cycle.


Where can I get insurance?

Most insurance providers that offer medical coverage have a vision insurance element that can be added onto your current plan. Alternatively, non-profit insurance providers like Blue Cross offer supplementary plans. This will give you access to a network of providers, including optometrists and ophthalmologists, eyewear stores, optical laboratories, and laser eye surgeons, depending on what type of coverage you purchase.


Ensuring eye coverage for your family is important, considering the array of vision complications that can arise. More information on medical conditions affecting the eyes can be found on our blog, or by booking an appointment with an FYidoctors optometrist near you.