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How Can I Afford an Eye Exam?


Updated November 13, 2012

Question: How Can I Afford an Eye Exam?
I just can't afford to pay for an eye exam right now. I know that having an eye exam every year is important, especially for my children. What if I don’t have the money to pay for eye exam for my family?
Answer: The best way to protect our eyes and vision is by having a regular eye exam. Even if we can see clearly, it is important to have a comprehensive eye exam each year to uncover eye diseases that may affect our vision if left undetected. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford the preventative eye care they need. If you are neglecting your vision because of financial worries, the following tips may help:

  • Check your insurance. Many people have insurance coverage for vision and eye care through their employee health plan. Eye exams are often covered through traditional medical insurance. Some plans actually have a separate "carve-out" vision rider policy that is not always apparent when signing up for the plan. Flex accounts or medical savings accounts can also be tapped for eye examinations. Check with your employer for possible benefits you may be entitled to.

  • Ask your school nurse. Many school nurses have access to special plans funded by large vision service plans and are often the best source for aid. Many of these plans go unused because of the effort it requires to fill out paperwork to qualify for these programs. Sight for Students is a Vision Service Plan (VSP) program that provides eye exams and glasses to children 18 years and younger whose families cannot afford vision care.

  • Contact the Lions Club. For many years, the Lions Club has provided several programs to help with eye examinations and eyewear. Lions Clubs International provides financial assistance through local clubs. Find a local club by using the "club locator" button found on their website.

  • Contact the American Optometric Association. The American Optometric Association (AOA) has a program called "InfantSEE," which is designed to detect eye conditions in babies. Member optometrists provide free comprehensive infant eye exams to children younger than 1 year of age.

  • Inquire about government programs.

    Medicare benefit for eye exams:

    • For those with diabetes: People with Medicare who have diabetes can receive a dilated eye exam to check for diabetic eye disease.
    • For those at risk for glaucoma: People at high risk for glaucoma include those with diabetes, a family history of glaucoma or African Americans ages 50 or older. Once a year, Medicare will pay for an eye exam to check for glaucoma. (Patients must pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after the yearly Part B deductible.)

State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP): For little or no cost, Insure Kids Now! pays for doctor visits, prescription medicines, hospitalizations and much more for children 18 years and younger. Most states also cover the cost of dental care, eye care and medical equipment.


National Eye Institute, Financial Aid for Eye Care. National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Jan 2009.

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