How Much is an Eye Exam Without Insurance?

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Overview: Eye Exams & Costs

The average cost of an eye exam is about $95. However, they can vary from about $50 to $250.

Unfortunately, about 30 million people in the United States don’t have health insurance. Additionally, many insurance plans do not include vision benefits. 

An annual eye exam will help keep you up-to-date with your vision care. Routine eye exams will help detect vision problems such as eye strain, astigmatism, myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and other age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration. They can also help monitor your overall health and detect symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems.

However, there are still several options for people who don’t have insurance but need an eye exam. You can go to your local eye optometrist or visit an eye doctor in a large chain store such as Wal-Mart, Target, or Costco. 

Many retail vision providers will charge less than $100, while independent eye doctors may charge more. An eye exam's average cost without insurance is around $200 for a new patient and $100-$150 for an established patient.

Eye vision test chart seen through eye glasses.

SUMMARY

An eye exam is an essential component of vision care. However, not all people have eye care benefits included in their health plan. The cost of eye exams without insurance range from $50 to $250, depending on where you get them.

How Much is an Eye Exam Without Insurance?

RetailerEye Exam Cost
Costcoaround $70
Targetaround $70
Walmart Vision Center$75+
Lenscrafters$73+
America’s Best$50 or free when you buy two pairs of eyeglasses
Sam’s Club$45+

Does Insurance Cover Eye Exams?

This varies from provider to provider. Most policies do not cover routine eye exams. However, many insurance providers offer separate vision plans. These will usually cover at least a portion of your eye exam costs. The average co-pay for an eye exam is around $10 to $40 if you have vision insurance.

What is Included in a Vision Exam?

During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist or ophthalmologist will use a variety of instruments to evaluate your vision as well as the health of your eyeballs. It will take between 30 minutes to an hour and will examine:

  • Visual acuity (the sharpness of your vision)
  • Refraction to check for refractive errors (determines your eyeglass prescription)
  • Visual field (peripheral vision)
  • Pupillary reactions (to light and close objects)
  • Eye alignment (how well your eyes work together)
  • Muscle function
  • Ocular health

At the end of your vision test, your doctor will tell you if you need any vision correction or if you have any eye problems. If you need eyewear to correct your vision, you will need to see an optician to be fitted for eyeglasses. You can also be referred to a specialist to discuss surgical options, such as LASIK.

A regular eye exam will only measure your vision and eye health. It does not include fitting for glasses or contacts. If you need contacts, you’ll have to schedule a contact lens exam.

SUMMARY

Some insurance companies have policies that cover eye exams, while others don't. An eye exam is necessary to ensure good visual health. A vision exam checks for problems in visual acuity, refraction, and muscle function, among others.

Tele-Optometry and Eye Exams

Tele-optometry is providing patients with new options for digital eye exams. These eye exams are similar to in-office appointments. They are not quite as comprehensive, but they are much more convenient since they can be performed from the comfort of your home via cell phone, tablet, or computer.

Tele-Optometry Eye Exam

With the rise of COVID-19, tele-optometry may see an increase in availability and usage.

During a tele-optometry eye exam, your eye doctor will perform three steps:

1. Collect Patient Information

Your optometrist will ask a series of questions to collect your information. These may include questions about your insurance, family history, medical history, allergies, and medications.

2. Perform Eye Exam

You will then undergo a series of exams. These may include:

  • Autorefraction. This test estimates your eyeglass prescription.
  • Lensometry. This will confirm the prescription in your current glasses.
  • Retinal imaging. A photograph will be taken of the back of your eye (retina).
  • Non-contact tonometry. This is a glaucoma screening that measures the pressure of your eye.
  • Refraction test. Using an HD digital optical system, your optometrist will perform a refraction test to determine your new prescription. 

3. Review Results

Your optometrist will then review your results and (if necessary) provide you with a new prescription. They will also let you know if anything unusual was detected and can provide you with references to specialists for additional treatment. 

“Teleophthalmology produces the same desired clinical outcome as the traditional system. Allowing specialists to provide care over a large region through a remote portal improves health outcomes. A high satisfaction level and acceptance is reported in the majority of the studies because of increased accessibility and reduced traveling cost and time.”

- Study published in Clinical Ophthalmology

Vision Discount Plans

Vision discount plans, or vision savings plans, are a budget-friendly alternative to vision insurance plans. Purchasing a membership from Careington will help you save on eye exams, frames, and more.

Typical Sample Savings*

BenefitAverage Cost Without PlanAverage Cost With PlanMember Typical Savings
Eye Exam$134$80$54
Frame$200$150$50
Single Vision Lenses$83$45$38
Transition® Lenses$96$77$19
Anti-Reflective Coating$76$45$31

*These costs and savings are based on regional fee schedule averages

Free Eye Exams (Ways to Save)

There are several public and private organizations that provide free or low-cost eye exams and glasses. Here are some of the best ways to get free eye exams for you and your family.

InfantSEE

InfantSEE offers free eye assessments for infants six to twelve months old. This program is managed by the American Optometric Association (AOA). It is funded by their charitable organization, Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation.

The AOA recommends scheduling your child's first eye exam around 6 months.

EyeCare America

EyeCare America is also funded by Optometry Cares - The AOA Foundation. It is a public service program managed by the Foundation of the American Academy of Opthalmology. Qualifying seniors can get free eye exams. It also provides discounted eye exams for adults.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a federal and state-funded health program that offers healthcare coverage to low-income individuals of all ages. Requirements for qualifying for Medicaid vary from state to state, so it’s important to check with programs in your state even if you think you do not qualify.

Medicaid covers many preventative services, screenings, and treatments for health conditions, including vision care issues. The program pays for many services for eligible children, including vision dental care and routine eye exams.

Sight for Students

Sight for Students is a program managed by Vision Service Plan (VSP). It includes free eye exams and free glasses to low-income children without medical or vision insurance. It’s a national program that has been operating since 1997.

New Eyes

New Eyes purchases glasses for low-income children. The non-profit program also recycles glasses donated by the public and distributes them to people globally. The program was founded in 1932 and has provided free eyeglasses for low-income people around the world.

SUMMARY

People wanting to have an eye exam but do not have insurance can benefit from Vision Discount Plans. Aside from that, there are also free eye exams available through Medicaid and other eye care programs from different organizations.

Common Questions and Answers

How can I get my eye prescription without insurance?

You can get an eye exam without insurance at places like Walmart, Sam's Club, and Costco. They work with licensed optometrists and provide cheaper rates on eye care, glasses, and contacts.

Can I do an eye exam online?

Yes, online eye exams are available. They are often cheaper and more convenient than in-office visits. However, online eye exams may take longer to complete than in-office exams.

What is the cheapest place to get an eye exam?

Sam's Club, Costco, Target, and America's Best are the cheapest places to get an eye exam.

How much is an eye exam without insurance at Visionworks?

Eye exam prices at Visionworks vary depending on your vision care provider and location. Call a local Visionworks store to determine pricing and schedule an eye exam.

How much is an eye exam without insurance at Walmart?

The average cost of an eye exam at Walmart is $79. A contact lens exam is $129.

How much is an eye exam at America's Best?

An eye exam at America's Best is $50 or free when you buy two pairs of eyeglasses.

Resources
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats - Health Insurance Coverage. 14 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/health-insurance.htm

Sreelatha, Omana Kesary, and Sathyamangalam VenkataSubbu Ramesh. “Teleophthalmology: improving patient outcomes?.” Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 10 285-95. 10 Feb. 2016, doi:10.2147/OPTH.S80487

Find out What Marketplace Health Insurance Plans Cover. www.healthcare.gov/coverage/what-marketplace-plans-cover/.  

“Get Help Paying For Eye Care.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/healthy-vision/get-help-paying-eye-care.

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