My $1,000 Mistake – Why You Need Vision Insurance All Posts / Wellness

In November, we went through open enrollment at work.  I selected the health insurance plan with the highest premiums (because it also has the lowest deductible), decided to opt out of dental insurance because I feel dental insurance is basically a scam, and waived vision insurance.

I’ve never had vision insurance in the past (and never needed it), so it didn’t even occur to me to sign up for it.  About a month after open enrollment had ended, I started noticing that I was having a lot of trouble reading things that were far away.  The text on the Netflix menu on my TV was suddenly blurry and difficult to read.  When driving, I noticed that I had to get pretty close to street signs before I could read them.

I decided to make an appointment with an eye doctor.  According to my medical insurance plan documents, the plan covered one eye exam per year.  At my appointment, the doctor told me that I needed to start wearing glasses (no surprise there) and gave me a prescription.  I went to Target and browsed their small selection of glasses, but I didn’t like any of them.  I went to a couple of other stores and tried on about 100 pairs of glasses (not exaggerating) before I found a pair I actually liked.  The glasses cost $385, but I told myself that it would be worth it because I would wear them every day.

About a month later, I got a bill in the mail from the eye doctor’s office for $400.  My insurance company had not covered anything.  I called them and explained to them that I had thought that my plan covered one vision exam per year.  Their response?  The plan covers a basic vision screening with a general practitioner – it does not cover a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or opthalmalogist.

My $385 “splurge” on glasses had suddenly become $785.  Luckily, I had the money in my emergency fund, but it was still incredibly frustrating to have something put me behind on making extra payments toward my student loans.

I realized that I also needed prescription sunglasses, and thankfully, those were the cheapest part of the whole deal.  I had a 50% off coupon for sunglasses at Target, so I bought the cheapest pair they had (which also happened to be super cute) for $140 with my coupon (they normally would’ve been $280).

With the $385 cost for the glasses, $400 for the eye exam, and $140 for the sunglasses, I ended up spending nearly $1,000 – simply because I made the mistake of not buying vision insurance.  My company offers vision insurance for about $6/month.  It doesn’t cover everything, but it certainly would’ve saved me a ton on the glasses and the eye exam (I’ve heard great things about the vision plan from coworkers who have it).

Whenever I experience a financial setback, I try to make the most of it and take it as a learning experience.  What did I learn from this?

  1. Vision insurance is a necessity and is worth $6/month in premiums.
  2. If you aren’t 100% sure that your medical insurance covers something, verify this with the insurance company before you make the appointment.
  3. I need to work on my patience. If I had been more patient, I could’ve shopped around more and found a cheaper pair of glasses.

Do you wish you had done anything differently with your insurance?


  1. I used to work for an insurance collection agency. I have to say I’ve gotten a few calls on matters that you stated. That is why every time I get my vision insurance I always get the high option. The cost difference between the high and the low is around $4, which is nothing to compared to the coverage the high option has.

    Every time, I go to the doctor and get my new prescription, I only end up paying around $50 (all included such as eye exam, cost of frames, and lenses) just because the the frames are just ridiculously expensive. The not-so expensive ones are flimsy and feels like they can easily break.

    • That’s interesting. I wish insurance companies would be more clear about what exactly is covered. I learned my lesson – definitely call before the appointment if you aren’t 100% sure that something expensive will be covered. I’ll be getting vision insurance in the future!

  2. I’ve used 39 Dollar Glasses and Zenni Optical mail order glasses. Currently fit the last year i have been wearing a pair of glasses that cost like $38 shipped (all day every day; I don’t wear contacts). You can’t return them so it’s a dice roll, but for a 90% savings it’s probably worth it for most people. You just get your eye prescription and get the eye doctor to measure your pupillary distance (or get a friend to do it using the little print out measuring gauge they have on either of those websites)

  3. Good warning story! I learned the “hard way” that it isn’t worth it to use my insurance for to purchase glasses. I don’t have a very strong prescription, so I can order them online at places like Coastal or DreamShades (there are lots others) and get designed classes for $15 to $90 instead of $400. Sometimes I will try on frames in a store, then find them cheaper online.

  4. I went for the second cheapest option my employer offered and ended up paying $5k out of pocket for an appendectomy last fall. If I had went for the extra $700 a year coverage it would have been free for emergency services. Oops. At least I had insurance though because the total surgery bill was over 30 grand.

  5. Good lesson! I cut corners on expenses wherever I can, so I didn’t get dental or vision through my work insurance, either (even though I wear glasses). So far, I haven’t spent more than maybe $200 on exams/glasses in the last 2 years, but it is definitely worth considering, especially if my vision deteriorates over time. (The thicker your lens, the more limited you are to bigger, more expensive frames…or at least, that’s my experience.)

    Thanks for sharing your story!!

  6. I’m in a dilemma with renewing health and dental insurance this year. The state is offering two plans, one that covers only visits to preferred doctors in Iowa and the other is a nationwide plan that you can see pretty much any doctor anywhere. The co-pays and deductibles are identical. The cost of just Iowa providers (Blue something) is $150 per month. The cost of nationwide providers (Alliance Select) is $253 per month. Trying to decide which plan to go with. Whichever way I go, the premium is still less than the current cost I’m paying for Alliance Select ($324 per month). which is a good problem to have I guess. It’s just a matter of how much do I want to save on premiums. I’m leaning to continuing with Alliance Select.

    Also, be careful with dental insurance that you know what coverage you have and if you have a maximum amount dental insurance will cover. I have Delta Dental and unknown to us there is a limit of them paying $1,500 per calendar year. My husband had a lot of dental work done this year and it wasn’t until it was all done and we got the bills that we found out about their cap annually. It cost us $4000 more than we anticipated paying. Ugh!!

    Love your blogs!! Great topics.

    • Those rates seem reasonable (I’m assuming you’re on a family plan). That’s too bad about the dental! That’s not a fun surprise! I believe my maximum for the year is $1,000, but luckily I don’t use my dental insurance much anyway.

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