The Real Cost of Laser Eye SurgeryAuthor: Dr. William Tullo
March 6, 2015
The cost of laser eye surgery can range from as low as $299 per eye to up to $4,000 or more per eye. The average price of custom bladeless LASIK eye surgery in 2013 was about $2,500 USD per eye. Geography, surgical experience, technology (e.g., which lasers), insurance benefits, and healthcare savings all influence your real cost of laser eye surgery.
Why Cost of Laser Eye Surgery Differs so Greatly
Many factors affect your LASIK price.
First, the surgeon you pick will affect your price. Surgeons who have been practicing longer tend to charge more. They bring added experience and expertise to your procedure, and many people feel more comfortable with an experienced surgeon. The most experienced surgeons have been practicing since the 1990s, when LASIK and its predecessor PRK gained commercial popularity. Research surgeons in your area to know what you are getting for the price.
In addition, the technology your surgeon uses affects your price. Bladeless LASIK procedures use a second laser not used in bladed procedures, and this can raise the price. As you might expect, a bladeless procedure offers additional benefits, such as an oftentimes faster and more pleasant recovery. Adding a customization to your laser eye surgery -- which uses Wavefront technology, developed by NASA -- will also affect its cost. Your doctor should discuss the benefits of bladed, bladeless, and Wavefront technology as they relate to your unique eyes.
Geography may also influence your price. Places with higher costs of living, such as New York or Boston, may reflect higher costs of laser eye surgery.
Finally, as you assess cost of laser eye surgery, consider what each quoted price includes. Some providers price out just the procedure without factoring additional services you may want. Provider A might give you a price for LASIK, for instance. Meanwhile Provider B may quote you for custom bladeless LASIK with a year’s worth of post-operative checkups and a limited-time or lifetime enhancement package included. Ask specifically what your price includes.
Will Insurance Cover Cost of Laser Eye Surgery?
Insurance usually does not cover laser eye surgery, unless your job requires perfect vision. Athletes and combat fighters sometimes qualify for full coverage, for instance.
Often insurance companies negotiate reduced rates for members, though. If you have insurance, it’s a good idea to ask specifically if the provider you are considering offers discounts for insurance holders like you. You might also ask what other membership discounts, such as those for military or AAA holders, they honor.
Health Spending Accounts for the Cost of Laser Eye Surgery
Many U.S. employees have an FSA, HSA, or HRA to cover health expenses with income-tax-free accounts. The cost of laser eye surgery is an eligible expense for all these accounts. In addition, some people may deduct the cost of major medical expenses. Check with your tax preparer if you think you qualify.
If you know you want LASIK but are concerned about up-front cost, assess your contributions during your employer’s open-enrollment window and consider increasing your savings so you can afford the procedure next year.
Creative Ways of Affording the Cost of Laser Eye Surgery
There are many ways to afford LASIK. Many people finance their procedures, at a monthly cost that has been compared to a utility bill. In addition, some choose to put the balance on a rewards-bearing credit card for points, miles, or other incentives. Make sure your provider accepts your credit card if you plan to do this.
The Real Value of Laser Eye Surgery
The cost of laser eye surgery reflects an elective procedure that has been called life changing. Many people reduce their need for glasses and contacts for years. The money saved on associated costs reflects only part of the surgery’s value though. Many find that after LASIK they can do what they could not have done before, such as SCUBA dive, wear off-the-shelf sunglasses, swim, play freely with their children, and travel without hassle. It’s important to weigh not just the cost of laser eye surgery, but whether the soft gains will increase your quality of living, and thus affect your decision to push forward with the procedure.