Ask Clark: How does vision insurance work?

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More and more of us have vision insurance through our employer, but this is one “insurance” policy that’s less than it appears to be.

RELATED: 9 kinds of insurance you can stop wasting money on

Vision insurance: How does it work?

With vision insurance, what you’re really getting is a discount — on your eye examination and on your glasses or contacts. Though with glasses and contacts, you typically have to pick which one you get your discount on if you wear both.

This is not true insurance. When you think about what insurance is, it’s where something happens and the insurer pays for your care minus a deductible.

Instead, you should think about vision insurance as being more like dental insurance. You get some amount of payment for the services you get. With dental, that typically means you gets two cleanings a year. Anything beyond that, and you only get a discount.

So it’s the same with vision insurance. You get a cut in price on your exam and then you get discounts on glasses or contacts, typically provided through your employer by a large insurer like EyeMed.

If you are not employed or your company doesn’t offer vision insurance, there are a number of plans available to individuals through companies like VSP.

But you know what’s more important with your eyes? It’s how and where you get your glasses or you get your contacts.

I always ask people, “What did you pay for your glasses?” Most spend a fortune. Yet today it’s possible to get frames and lenses complete for ultra-cheap online. According to Consumer Reports, one of the highest rated sellers is You can get prescription glasses for typically as little as $15.

Here’s my list of the 10 best places to get a deal on eyeglasses. Remember, my key rule here is that buying the right way is more important than worrying necessarily about vision insurance.


If you wear contacts, contact lens prices had been very affordable about six or eight years ago. Then they got to be very expensive. And now, the prices of them are coming back down again.

So with contacts, where you fill the prescription for your lenses is again more important than vision insurance per se. Costco Wholesale has its Kirkland Signature private label that is much cheaper than brand name lenses. I’ve got a list of 15 places to save money on contact lenses.

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