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?