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Regular eye exams are important to protect your eye health. Some issues don’t present any obvious symptoms, and require a careful analysis from a medical professional to recognize. Annual exams help diagnose and treat eye health issues and provide you with a pair of glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.
Eye exams diagnose and correct problems with vision. Instead of dealing with eye strain, headaches, and trouble concentrating, an eye exam diagnoses the issue with your vision and provides you with prescription lenses to correct the problem, or recommends alternative treatments such as LASIK eye surgery.
Sometimes insurance policies sometimes cover eye exams. They are considered preventative health care and require only a small co-pay from the insured. Some people need to purchase a supplemental vision insurance plan that offers coverage. But even if you do not have insurance coverage, or your plan does not cover eye exams, it’s still possible to undergo an exam without spending a lot of money.
An eye exam’s average cost is about $200, but you can find reputable vision health establishments that do it for much less.
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Many places offer low-cost and free eye exams. It’s a good idea to evaluate your options and determine which is right for you based on your vision health concerns more than simply finding the cheapest eye exam. Many of these establishments are full-service and offer a full range of eyewear.
Some of the most popular eye health exams are available at:
Zocdoc helps you find nearby doctors in your network. You can read reviews of eye doctors by real patients and book doctor appointments with a couple of clicks. You can even book eye exams via video conferences for remote teleoptometry sessions.
This is an online eye exam and cheap contact lens exam offered to people who already have a prescription for contact lenses (not for first time customers). The exam is $20 and taken in the comfort of your own home. Ideally, you’ll have a regular comprehensive eye exam at your ophthalmologist’s or optometrist’s office and use this free eye exam to ensure your prescription is up-to-date. The exam takes about 15 minutes and you get your results within hours.
1800 Contacts eye exams are available to people aged 18 to 55 who live in an eligible state. States that do not offer online eye exams from 1 800 Contacts include:
Americas Best offers eye exams for $45. This fee might be waived if you purchase two pairs of glasses from the company. Contact lens eye exams are a bit more expensive and cost $79.
America’s Best also offers free contact lens exams for three years (up to 2 exams per year) for its Eyecare club members. The membership fee is $99.
Some Target locations offer eye exams for approximately $55 through their Target Optical service. This is a basic exam. You pay more if you need pupil dilation. An eye doctor conducts the exam and offers a prescription for corrective lenses if needed.
Costco eye exams are available for club members for approximately $80 for a glasses exam. Contact lens exams are approximately $150.
The fee for a standard eye exam at Walmart Vision Center is $60. Walmart accepts some forms of insurance, which might reduce your exam cost or cover the cost of your glasses or contact lenses.
Sam’s Club offers basic eye exams starting at $50 for members who need eyeglasses. Dilation and contact lens exams cost more at about $100. You might also pay more if you need contacts for astigmatism or other concerns that extend beyond a basic exam. You’ll also pay more if you are interested in purchasing progressive lenses or bifocals.
EyeCare America offers comprehensive exams for $89. Eyecare Club memberships cost $99 and offer up to two free exams per year for three years.
Cheap eye exams vary in cost but are usually available for $100 or less. Cheap tends to equate to basic, so if you have serious vision health concerns, it’s best to seek a comprehensive and likely more expensive exam. Cheap eye exams are not recommended for people diagnosed with:
Eye exams are important for protecting your vision and for early diagnosis of other health concerns. Some basic eye exams can detect problems with heart health, stroke risk, and diabetes-related vision problems. However, you believe these issues are a concern for you, it’s best to establish a working relationship with a full-service eye health center and set up routine check-ups.
Cheap eye exams are ideal for people who are young, do not suspect any eye health issues, and want to measure their visual acuity.
You might qualify for a free eye exam or free prescription eyeglasses based on your income. Some of the programs offering free and cheap eye exams and glasses no insurance include:
This is a national public health program. It’s funded by charitable donations to the American Optometric Association (AOA) and staffed by volunteer optometrists. The program provides a single free vision assessment for children under one year of age. You do not need insurance coverage to have your baby’s vision evaluated by InfantSEE.
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 eligibility is less strict for people who are blind or have other disabilities.
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.
This is a program offered 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.
This is a non-profit volunteer optometry program that purchases glasses for low-income children. The 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.
Vision and Hearing Screening Services for Children and Adolescents. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/early-and-periodic-screening-diagnostic-and-treatment/vision-and-hearing-screening-services-children-and-adolescents/index.html
Lundeen, Elizabeth A et al. “Disparities in Receipt of Eye Exams Among Medicare Part B Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries with Diabetes - United States, 2017.” MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report vol. 68,45 1020-1023. 15 Nov. 2019, doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6845a3
Kimel, Linda S. “Lack of Follow-up Exams After Failed School Vision Screenings: An Investigation of Contributing Factors.” The Journal of School Nursing, vol. 22, no. 3, June 2006, pp. 156–162, doi:10.1177/10598405060220030601.
Picone, G., Brown, D., Sloan, F. et al. Do Routine Eye Exams Improve Vision?. International Journal of Health Care Finance and Economics 4, 43–63 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:IHFE.0000019262.27436.3d