I’ve worn contacts comfortably for 25 years — since I was 13. But every now and then, I wonder what it might be like to not have to pop those lenses in every day (or wear glasses on the rare days my eyes don’t want to cooperate).
About 700,000 LASIK procedures are performed each year, according to the Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, and a large percentage of patients are happy with the results. However, the Food and Drug Administration is considering changing its guidance to require surgeons to better explain the risks. In some patients, there are long-term side effects that can impact vision and eye health.
If you decide LASIK is worth the risk for you, the next step is worrying that you can’t afford the medical bills that come with eye surgery.
This sought-after procedure appears to be fairly affordable, through a variety of payment options. Here’s what you need to know about how to pay for LASIK.
How much does LASIK cost?
It’s possible to have your surgery done with the most sophisticated equipment for about $2,100 per eye, said Satish Modi, a board-certified ophthalmologist and LASIK surgeon with Seeta Eye Centers.
According to All About Vision, a website committed to eye care information, some eye centers offer “bargain” LASIK for as little as $499 per eye. However, that price can be misleading, the site warns. Some of the issues with so-called deals include:
- Pricing that might cover only mild nearsightedness, with other problems costing much more
- Possible additional fees, including a charge for an initial consultation (which many eye doctors offer for free)
- Extra follow-up visit charges that you might have to pay
- Older technology used for the procedure instead of the latest equipment
According to All About Vision, you’ll likely pay between $1,500 and $2,500 per eye, based on a report prepared by Market Scope:
As you can see, you can expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for your LASIK procedure on both eyes. However, it might cost more, depending on where you live and the severity of your eyesight issues.
LASIK can save you money over time
The surgery sounds expensive. But continuing to pay for corrective products and services can cost even more over your lifetime, Modi pointed out.
“LASIK is life-changing not only in regards to one’s vision but also one’s pocket,” said Modi. “The average 25-year-old may spend $20,000 or more in their lifetime for glasses and contacts, and still have the problem.”
Indeed, my contact lenses cost about $110 for a six-month supply. That’s $220 per year. From age 18 (when I started buying my own contacts) until now, I’ve paid about $4,400. That doesn’t include all the specialized costs of contact lens eye exams or the costs associated with buying glasses.
At this rate, if I live until age 85, Modi’s expense estimate wouldn’t be that far-fetched. Figuring out how to pay for LASIK surgery could be a significant money-saver in the long run.
How to pay for LASIK surgery
Instead of trying to get the lowest price, Modi suggested looking for a LASIK surgeon or eye care center that uses state-of-the-art equipment and then using some financing options to cover the costs.
Here are four strategies to consider when looking into how to pay for LASIK.
1. Save up using a bank account
Consider saving up for LASIK eye surgery with a specific goal in mind. If your target amount is $4,000, decide how much you need to set aside in a regular savings account each month for your eye surgery. If you want to get the procedure done in six months, you’d need to save $666.67 each month.
That can seem like a daunting task, however. Finding more than $600 a month to save is a huge challenge for many of us. But you may be surprised to discover that, with some clever savings tricks, you might have the money.
2. Use money from your FSA or HSA
Some employers match some FSA and HSA contributions, so if you’ve been contributing pretax money regularly to either of these accounts, there could be free money ready for you to use.
The IRS considers the amount you pay to correct defective vision — including laser eye surgery — a “qualified medical expense” and eligible for FSA and HSA funds.
Even if you don’t have enough money in your tax-advantaged health account to cover the entire procedure, you might be able to reduce your out-of-pocket costs by using an FSA or HSA for some of your expenses.
3. Get financing through your eye doctor
“I’m a big believer in providing as many financing opportunities as possible to the patient,” said Chris Walton, a board-certified ophthalmologist who focuses on LASIK surgery. “We use two different third-party finance companies that offer very favorable no-interest plans and flexible payment options.”
However, you do need to watch out for some of the realities involved with these options, Walton warned. A credit check will be needed, so the best interest rates and terms on these loans might not be available if you have poor credit.
Most eye doctors don’t offer true in-house financing, said Walton, because of the financial risks to the service providers. Instead, they set up agreements with third parties such as CareCredit and Alphaeon, which specialize in small loans for medical expenses.
4. Borrow money via a personal loan
It’s possible to get a personal loan from a private company to help you as you decide how to pay for LASIK. Depending on your credit and income situation, you might be able to get a good deal on a personal loan.
Compare the potential cost of third-party financing through your eye doctor along with other borrowing options, such as credit card financing. Getting multiple quotes on interest rates and other terms can help you make the best choice.
Use our personal loan calculator to get an idea of the monthly payments you’ll face. Here’s an example of a three-year loan:
If you don’t have the time to save up and don’t have money left in your FSA or HSA, a personal loan can be one solution with affordable monthly payments — although it will cost you in interest charges.
Combine strategies when you plan how to pay for LASIK
Put together a plan to help you as you decide how to pay for LASIK surgery. You might not need to finance the entire procedure if you can combine strategies. Consider saving up for at least some of the costs by using a bank account or one of the tax-advantaged health accounts to reduce how much you end up borrowing.
Between the use of specialized accounts and the expansion of financing options, “LASIK is affordable to nearly everyone,” Walton said.
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