How Much Is LASIK?Author: Dr. William Tullo
February 18, 2014
A common question about laser eye surgery is simply, “How much is LASIK?”
The best answer is this: There is no single answer. The cost of LASIK varies widely from the “too good to be true” $299 per eye on TV commercials to the equally incredible $5,000 per eye. The national average cost of Custom Bladeless LASIK (the type doctors and patients prefer for its advanced safety) is about $2,000 per eye, and a little more than that in larger cities with a higher cost of living..
Why so much?
LASIK cost basics
LASIK eye surgery is advertised “per eye.” That means that whether you see a price at $299 or at $4,000, you’re going to pay twice this price for both eyes (meaning $598 or $8,000, respectively). Some people do get just one eye. For instance, you might have astigmatism in one eye but see perfectly in the other. Thus, price is measured per eye.
However, both $299 and $4,000 per eye represent extreme ends of the cost spectrum. The national average price of $2,000 per eye ($4,000 total) is more realistic. Reputable providers in larger cities usually charge around $2,500 per eye.
Beware of the low end (e.g., $299-$1,000 per eye). Anticipate a bait-and-switch with these prices, which is when the low advertised price increases progressively throughout your correspondence with the service provider. The price of laser eye surgery can rise in these situations based on your prescription, the newness of the technology you want, having astigmatism, or any number of other factors.
On the other hand, premium prices should change very little because they should be all-inclusive. This means if you’re paying $2,000 to $4,000 per eye, you have a right to ask that this includes all your pre- and post-operative care. Your pre-op care consists of doctor visits and eye measurements before the procedure (sometimes called a “consultation”). Your post-op care consists of doctor visits for one year after laser eye surgery (typically at increments such as one day, one week, one month and so forth). Post-op care can also include healing eye drops and something called “enhancements,” which are touch ups in case your vision regresses in the years following your procedure. If you plan to pay premium from the start, simply ask, “Is there any expense related to this surgery that is not included in your price?”
Why is $2,000 the magic number?
You might be surprised to learn that the price of laser eye surgery has not changed much in the years since its approval (roughly the mid-1990s). The cost has fluctuated somewhat, yet hovered at about $2,000. This is because factors, including and especially technology and research, keep the best surgeons constantly investing in newer technology and techniques. Prepare mentally to pay about $4,000 if you want laser eye surgery in both eyes.
Additional factors can bump the $2,000 cost up or down by a few hundred or more, though, depending on secondary factors.
Geography influences cost
Where you live determines the price of your milk, your sales tax, and what you’ll pay for LASIK eye surgery. Getting laser eye surgery in Fargo, North Dakota, for instance, might cost several hundred less (per eye) than getting it in New Jersey.
Surgeon influences cost
Have you ever gone to a beauty school and gotten a cheap haircut? In a similar though not exactly analogous comparison, less experienced laser eye surgeons can cost less than those with tens of thousands of procedures performed. Qualified laser eye surgeons charge more for their procedures because they offer the benefits of their years: a higher track record of safe, accurate results. Getting a more experienced surgeon does not guarantee safer, more accurate results, but it can tip chances in your favor of having the most satisfaction with your results. If you’re going to get laser eye surgery, you want it to be done right the first time.
Technology influences cost
The national average cost cited in this article has been about $2,000 per eye, or $4,000 total. That cost is based on something called Custom Bladeless LASIK. The terms “Custom” and “Bladeless” mean two different technologies, which can be combined to produce the most advanced procedure a laser eye surgeon can offer you.
Customized laser eye surgery means a doctor or trained assistant will take measurements of your eye by using elite technology—called “WaveFront analysis”—developed by NASA. These measurements are programmed into a computer that talks to the laser, leaving your vision corrected for not only nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism—but also for what are called “high-order aberrations.” High-order aberrations are additional refractive errors that affect the quality of your vision. Minimizing these aberrations can sometimes improve night vision. In other words, customized laser eye surgery not only sculpts your corneas, but polishes them too. This has left some people seeing better than they did with contacts or glasses.
Bladeless laser eye surgery is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional, bladed procedures. In the past, a laser eye surgeon would physically cut the flap in your eye by using something called a “microkeratome” blade, which has been used in many types of eye surgery. However, a new laser called the “femtosecond laser” can create this flap too, eliminating the need for a blade. Not only does this tend to make patients feel safer, but it also yields incredibly accurate results. Having Bladeless (sometimes called “Intralase”) LASIK eye surgery requires that your surgeon has invested in a femtosecond laser. Thus, Intralase surgeries are often more expensive than traditional, bladed procedures.
So how much is LASIK?
Shop around for the provider and price you feel comfortable investing in. When all is said and done, the attitude of the staff, the track record of the surgeon’s satisfied patients, the technology and the expertise of the provider will dictate an appropriate LASIK price.