Custom glasses for charity?
September 13, 2014 2:05 PM   Subscribe

My vision plan is flooding me with eyeglasses. Can I get creative with donating glasses to charity?

I have a vision plan that allows me two sets of frames and lenses a year, plus a pair of "computer glasses", whatever those are. My prescription hasn't changed in over a decade, and as much as I like having backups, I've got glasses just everywhere now.

Obviously I could get new glasses every year, and donate the old ones, or even the new ones, to charity. But I started thinking, how many people are going to need my exact prescription, with one eye slightly stronger than the other? What prescriptions, for that matter, do people of limited means need? Can I, in fact, have my spare pair of glasses custom-made for charity?

This has raised a number of additional questions, not the least of which is "is this insurance fraud?" I'm not sure what the difference is between having glasses made to my prescription and donating them and having them made to some other prescription and donating them, though if this is a Bad Idea then I'm ok with being shot down. Also, if this is workable, how do I find out who (in Oregon) to go through? And what else am I not thinking of?
posted by darksasami to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
I think getting new glasses every year and donating the old ones is probably your best bet, as, in the US at least, it's usually the frames that are the exorbitantly expensive aspect of getting glasses. Presumably if there's a nonprofit that accepts donations of gently used eyeglasses, it's the frames they want, not the lenses.

Googling "donate eyeglasses nonprofit" produced a number of results where it's implied that it is indeed the frames that are wanted, not the lenses necessarily.
posted by Sara C. at 2:19 PM on September 13, 2014

I know that the Lions Club accepts donations.

I'm not familiar with the science of eyeglass prescriptions, but I once assisted an ophthalmologist on a medical missions trip to Mexico. The hundreds of glasses we took with us from the Lions Club were separated into several bags according to only two measurements (I forget what they were), say X and Y. After he measured a person's vision, he asked me for a pair from the, e.g., X=3 and Y=1 bag. That was enough to make a huge difference to the person with blurry vision.
posted by davcoo at 2:25 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm sure that health insurance companies can't stand to pay for things they deem "not medically necessary" and getting one pair of glasses with one prescription and one pair in another might raise that flag.

This might be fraud if there's any language in your vision insurance policy that mentions who is entitled to receive services/benefits under the policy (i.e., who is considered a covered person). In short, don't violate the terms of your policy (which none of us can really read).
posted by Brian Puccio at 2:43 PM on September 13, 2014

Are you sure that if you want to do the most good, you wouldn't be better off canceling the vision portion of your insurance and straight up donating that money instead?

I ask because I've never seen a vision plan that makes financial sense for an individual (not a family) with vision that is not so horribly impaired that it requires an obscure prescription. For the cost of the most recent eye plan I was offered, I could get an eye exam and maybe 5 pairs of glasses online every year for the same price - $15/mo.

But I fully allow that the plans I have seen may have been outliers, or your company passes far less of those costs on to you. Just wanted to make sure you've checked!
posted by lesli212 at 2:48 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Shooting your bad idea down, here. Donate the ones that you already have and don't want to your local Lions Club. Only get ones when you need them. Just because insurance will pay for something doesn't mean that you have to get it.
posted by myselfasme at 9:51 PM on September 13, 2014

Agreeing with the comments that this isn't the best way to help. The middlemen in this situation are the insurance company and the folks making the prescription lenses. Why make a rich person richer when you are trying to support the poor?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:43 AM on September 14, 2014

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