My employer does not provide vision insurance. What should I do?
October 28, 2007 8:53 PM   Subscribe

My employer does not provide vision insurance -and I wear glasses for nearsightedness. The way I see it, I have three options - 1) Use the Lenscrafters coupons in the Sunday paper, 2) Use my AAA member card for a discount at Lenscrafters, 3) Use the measly 20% vision discount I have available as a member of BlueShield, or 4) Sign up for independent vision coverage through a plan like VSP. Is anyone else in a similar boat? What do you use? What do you recommend and advise against using?
posted by invisible ink to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to mention, the 20% vision discount I receive through BlueShield can be used at a variety of participating providers, not just Lenscrafters.
posted by invisible ink at 8:57 PM on October 28, 2007

Buy your glasses online, where they are much cheaper. Ratings of various sites are here.
posted by ssg at 9:03 PM on October 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Zenni Optical. I'm wearing 8 dollar glasses right now.
posted by Floydd at 9:04 PM on October 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

I imagine that since you already wear glasses, you know the prescription you should be wearing. If that is the case, consider buying glasses online. I would suggest Zenni Optical, but there are quite a few alternatives.

There's no reason to go with VSP though. It's a ripoff. I guarantee you if you went to a VSP-covered doctor and offered than 15% off of whatever rate VSP wants to charge you, they'd work out a deal that's just as good. There's rarely a good reason to buy unsubsidized insurance for necessary expenses.
posted by saeculorum at 9:05 PM on October 28, 2007

If you are a Costco member, glasses there are relatively cheap. But if you need a new prescription, I don't think eye exams are free (maybe $40?), I'm not sure. Some places advertise free eye exams if you buy glasses. .
posted by Lylo at 9:08 PM on October 28, 2007

I recommend against LensCrafters for a variety of reasons.

1) I went there for the first time last year, and they told me that my Traditional Blue insurance (Same thing as BlueCross/BlueShield) couldn't be used with them, even though I'd called and they said they take it. I had to call, ask specifically for a doctor, and come in and speak with said doctor before they'd take my discount.

2) They told me I'd be able to drive fine after they dilated my eyes. I told them I'm sensitive to light and don't have prescription sunglasses. They told me I'd be fine. When I left, there was no way I would have been able to drive, and I had to wait in the parking lot for an hour before I felt safe. I talked to two separate eye doctors later, and they said they'd never let a patient drive alone if they didn't have sunglasses after dilation.

3) Instead of letting me choose what glasses I wanted, they tried to choose them for me, and basically tried to sell me on specific styles. When I tried to take a specific style I liked to try it on, the lady told me "Oh, no, you don't want that." Okay.

4) They also tried to hard-sell me on contacts even though I don't wear contacts. When I told them I wasn't interested in contacts, they acted like there was something wrong with me.

Basically, I won't be back there again. The one doctor was very nice, but I never saw her again after. I complained directly to the store (calmly, etc), but they really brushed it off. Bleh.

Anyway, I really recommend seeing who your friends use and recommend, and then seeing if they're in-network for BlueShield. You don't mention where you're from, so I don't know what's in your area to recommend. Good luck in your search!
posted by Verdandi at 9:14 PM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just one note: if you get glasses online, make sure you have your ophthalmologist measure your pupillary distance at your next exam. (The eyeglasses place will likely be kind of bitchy about giving it to you, since they know what you're going to do with it.) I did mine with a millimeter ruler and a mirror and my $20 Pakistani glasses are just a smidge wonky - I'm glad they're not my primaries, since they're almost fine, but I'm not comfortable driving with them.
posted by cobaltnine at 9:14 PM on October 28, 2007

Insurance is a lousy deal for necessary expenses, whether paid for by you or by your employer. So your employer, recognizing this, isn't providing it. I can assure you that WalMart optical will be cheaper than buying vision insurance.

If you can, wait for one of their two-for-one deals on frames, then you can have prescription sunglasses as well as regular glasses.

Or, you could get lasik, since that is much cheaper over the long run than a steady stream of new glasses. Lasik isn't ever covered by insurance, AFAIK, so you'd be paying for it anyway.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 9:50 PM on October 28, 2007

The downside to online shopping for eyewear is that you can't try them on. Some sites will have a PDF of the glasses you can download and print to hold up to your face just for size, but it's not the same.

I took a chance anyway, figuring the maximum I'd lose was only $40. The last pair I bought from the mall at Lenscrafters cost me over $250. The gamble paid off, because I love my $39 glasses. I've worn them daily for three or four years now without any problem more severe then occasionally having to tighten up the screws.

There is a bit of inconvenience, too, because you don't get your glasses the same day... more like a week or two, but it's really worth the wait to save all that money.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:03 PM on October 28, 2007

Nthing the online eyeglass shopping. I'm just as happy with my 32 dollar glasses from goggles4you as I am with my 300 dollar specks from lenscrafters. I'll never spend more than $50 on glasses again.

You can measure your old glasses and get a similarly sized pair when you order online. You can be pretty confident that they'll fit properly that way.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:00 PM on October 28, 2007

How bad is your vision. LensCrafters will give you passable glasses for cheap. I wear them right now, I am a cheap bastard, but could easily afford better. As long as your issues are not big, and you like the frames, I think these sorts of places are fine. I hear tell, rumor, etc., that the prescriptions at the chains are frequently off by a significant margin, and my personal experience is that those rumors seem true, yet eyes adapt. Now as I face the prospect of bifocals, yes growing old can get tedious, I think I am going back to a more specialized optometris, perhaps Definity lenses. I broke my back making the money, perhaps it is time to spend some of it wisely. Everyone needs to find their own way, but unless you issues are big, I don't think it matter that much here. Good luck.
posted by caddis at 1:16 AM on October 29, 2007

Or, you could get lasik, since that is much cheaper over the long run than a steady stream of new glasses.

That's certainly debatable. I've had my current cheap glasses for 6 years and am just now thinking about getting new ones because my vision is a little fuzzy.

Also, In my opinion, the risks of LASIK just aren't worth it. Yes, there are very good doctors that do it fairly reliably, but there's still that one-in-a-thousand chance of complications. (nighttime halos or worse). I'm just not willing to risk my vision under the knife (or the laser).
posted by chrisamiller at 4:27 AM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have never loved a pair of glasses more than my $8 Zenni Opticals! I just ordered another pair!
posted by tristeza at 6:12 AM on October 29, 2007

I am right now going through a glasses mess, so I feel for you. On the good side, I have figured out a few things:

Don't bother with VSP or getting other vision insurance on your own. It would be a waste of money. Even if you go to a more spendy optometrist for a prescription, the cost of the exam probably won't be as much as a year of premiums. And it certainly doesn't help that much with the cost of glasses because I know VSP doesn't contract with the more reasonable places, only the smaller stores with less selection and insane markup.

The only reason to buy glasses at a retail outlet is to make sure that you can return them if your script is wrong, or they don't fit or something. This is especially important if you are changing to progressive lenses or something major like that. For that you really need a good optician. Use any discount you can find. However, when you have all of the measurements and know what you want, glasses are so much cheaper online. GlassyEyes is a good place to start.

If you have a Lenscrafters nearby, they will do adjustments on any glasses for free, and repairs for a small fee. You can also ask them to check your actual lenses against the presciption you have, just to make sure that your glasses are correct.

As for LASIK, well, for some people it is an absolute miracle. A friend of mine started saving as soon as she heard about it, and got both of her eyes done as soon as she could. But she had vision so bad that she was effectively blind without glasses and had become unable to wear contacts. Now she needs no glasses and couldn't be happier. But I'd never have eye surgery for my simple myopia, the risks are not worth it to me.
posted by monopas at 6:30 AM on October 29, 2007

Honestly, I have "vision insurance", and it's marginal whether it's worth it. An extra $20 a month, and the only reason I come out ahead is because my lenses are frightfully expensive.
posted by smackfu at 6:54 AM on October 29, 2007

Vision coverage has largely been a waste to me...and I've had glasses since third grade.

Considered Costco for lenses? Their frames are wildly inexpensive while also being quite cute.
posted by answergrape at 7:12 AM on October 29, 2007

When I wore glasses, I paid retail, out of my own pocket. I would buy new glasses every 6-10 years, so the expense really wasn't that bad spread out over time. I never considered getting vision insurance, and doubt it would have been worth it in my case.

FWIW, I had to get emergency replacement lenses in my frames (after cracking one in an accident) from Lenscrafters. Those lenses never seemed quite right to me—I even got myself re-examined and a replacement set of lenses from Lenscrafters (under their guarantee). No change.

Then I came into a small windfall and got LASIK. Yay me.
posted by adamrice at 7:17 AM on October 29, 2007

I vote for the pay as you go, unless you have some rather serious issues it's probably cheaper to pay out $200 a year out of pocket on a checkup and (possibly) lenses.

Another thing I'm really glad I did was invest in a really good pair of high-quality titanium frames. The cheap glasses I used to get at lenscrafters had a bad tendency to corrode after 12-18 months.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:26 AM on October 29, 2007

if you have very poor vision you may be better off going to a real glasses store. They can't make all lenses in all prescriptions, and if your vision is bad enough they can't your lenses into all frames. Also, if you have poor vision you probably won't be able to get same-day glasses anywhere (everywhere I've ever been has had to order my lenses), so don't get too excited about that aspect of lenscrafters.

If you like the size of your current glasses and are going to order online and want similarly size frames here is a tip--on the inside of your frames there will be two numbers separated by a square. The first number is the width of the lens at the widest part. The second number is the width of the bridge. There will be a bigger number on the temple which is the length of the temple.
posted by gembackwards at 8:04 PM on October 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, for your valuable input. While I prefer going into a brick & mortar store to get an actual feel of how the glasses rest on my face, I will definitely be buying a back-up pair from 39Glasses.
posted by invisible ink at 9:21 PM on October 29, 2007

I go to America's Best, if you have them where you are. Pretty decent prices, decent selection, decent customer service, etc.
posted by pyjammy at 1:03 PM on October 30, 2007

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