Eye Care for Older Adults: 4 Smart Ways to Save

You don’t need to rely on your Medicare or private insurance plan. Here are some better options.

America's Best can help seniors save on much-needed eyecare. Woman shopping for glasses.

Whether you depend on corrective lenses every waking hour or only wear them to read or drive, you’ve probably noticed this: You can’t fully fund eye care and eyewear from petty cash.

In fact, one in 10 people between the ages of 50 and 80—including those with vision problems—put off getting their regular eye exams and updating eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions. Twenty-five percent of those who put it off were concerned about the cost, according to the University of Michigan’s 2018 National Poll on Aging.

One major reason: Medicare limits. 

Medicare Part B (which covers doctor visits, preventive services, medical supplies, and outpatient care) does not pay for eyeglasses unless it’s after cataract surgery—and that poses a significant financial burden for some older adults, says Joshua Ehrlich, M.D., a glaucoma specialist, researcher, and health policy expert at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor.

Eye exams also aren’t covered under Medicare Part B, unless you have diabetes or need tests and treatments for glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration.

“The cost of vision insurance as a supplement to Medicare can be high,” Dr. Ehrlich says, “but for those who need glasses or contact lenses, weighing the cost of vision insurance against the out-of-pocket cost of glasses may be helpful to make the right financial situation for their individual situation.”

Has it been a while since your last eye checkup? Now’s the time to book an appointment

The Risks of Skimping on Eye Care 

As you get older, changes to your vision happen more often, putting your safety at risk if you don’t take quick steps to address the problems.

Your ability to drive, see in the dark, and move around without falling could be compromised. Even your social life pays a price if you can’t see well, says Dr. Ehrlich, explaining that older people with uncorrected vision problems are likely to stay at home more.

Regular eye exams become even more important after age 60, when your risk for serious but treatable conditions like cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s lens) and age-related macular degeneration (damage to the central part of the retina that results in blurry vision or blank spots in your field of vision) become more common.

The National Institute on Aging recommends annual eye exams for everyone over age 60, and it encourages seeing your eye doctor if you notice any changes to your sight between those yearly checkups.

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4 Smart Ways to Save On Eye Care

Nonetheless, there are ways to save money and stay on top of your eye health—without even touching your Medicare B or supplemental vision insurance.

“It’s a matter of being a smarter shopper,” says Jill Schlesinger, a personal finance expert and CBS News business analyst. Schlesinger also hosts the syndicated radio show "Jill on Money" and is the author of The Dumb Things Smart People Do with Their Money. 

“Everyone wonders, ‘Why am I paying so much for glasses?’ but they don’t realize how much preventative eye care can save you [in terms of] money and heartache down the line,” she says.

Here are four of the smartest ways to save:

1. For routine eye care, skip insurance. Yearly eye checks are your first line of defense to prevent many of the age-related eye diseases mentioned above. Caught early enough, eye problems can often be reversed, stalled, or more easily managed.

America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses accepts several insurance plans. But many shoppers find that our everyday low prices are often better deals than what they’d pay through their insurance plan. For example, eye exams are free when you select any two pairs of eyeglasses. 

Ask your America’s Best associate to help you compare the value of your insurance plan against our everyday offers. 

2. Shop for good deals. Need bifocals or progressive lenses? You won’t have to prepare for sticker shock at America’s Best: We have two-pair offers for bifocals too — and remember that they include the eye exam. You can protect your investment by adding UV protection, scratch resistance, tinting, plus a one-year Product Protection Plan. An anti-reflective coating can also be added to your lenses to help make night-time driving easier, or if an astigmatism or existing cataracts make you especially sensitive to glare.

Contact lens exams at America’s Best are also affordable. But for just a few dollars more you can join the Eyecare Club. Being a member affords you three years of eye exams (up to two per year), plus a 10% discount on contact lenses, glasses, and accessories. California residents click here.

3. Reach out to a nonprofit. Senior citizens who live on a fixed income with no private health insurance may qualify for free screenings for common eye diseases (including glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy) through the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America.

Treatment and ongoing care may also be provided to those diagnosed with an eye disease. There are certain income restrictions and eligibility requirements. Call 877-887-6327 to find resources near you.

4. Check your VA benefits. Veterans Affairs (VA) provides eye care services to veterans with any service-related disability. They’ll also cover the vision needs of a wide-range of veterans, including those whose vision has been impacted as a result of another disease that they’re being treated for by the VA. Find your nearest VA facility here

In addition, America’s Best extends a 10% discount year-round to members of the military. And in the month of May, the discount is 15%. All you have to do is show an associate your military ID card.

Bottom line: Don’t skimp on eye care, says Schlesinger: “If you [take the same] time to research your vision care options as you do to research a restaurant, you will definitely save some bucks.”