The cost of corrective LASIK eye surgery depends on various factors. Insurance may or may not cover it, but some practitioners offer financing. There may also be ways to reduce the cost of the procedure. Here’s what to keep in mind when looking for LASIK (laser assisted in situ keratomileusis).
What is LASIK surgery?
LASIK began in 1989 when an ophthalmologist, Gholam A. Peyman, was granted a patent for his vision correction procedure. Eyeglasses and contact lenses work by bending or refracting light.
Rather, LASIK surgery reshapes the cornea into a dome shape by correcting refraction and vision. LASIK surgery involves creating and removing a flap over the cornea, then using an excimer laser to reshape the tissue underneath before replacing the flap.
A decade after the invention of LASIK, in 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the procedure for correcting vision problems such as myopia. LASIK quickly overtook the excimer surface laser refractive photokeratectomy (PRK) procedure, which was first performed in 1988 and involves the use of lasers on the surface of the cornea. PRK is still practiced.
While Dr. Peyman initially cut the flaps with a device called a microkeratome developed 40 years earlier, it was the automation of this device that allowed the procedure to gain momentum. This made the shutters much more precise and repeatable.
When LASIK first appeared, the cost of correcting myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism with this procedure was around $ 2,000 per eye. As a result of concerns that this price was a barrier for many, the cost declined to around $ 1,600 per eye over the next several years.
These days, you can get personalized LASIK in the US for an average cost of around $ 2,246 per eye. However, not all LASIK is the same. The type of technology used for the procedure can influence the cost. Here’s what you need to know about the options.
The cheapest option is conventional LASIK at an average cost of $ 1,500 per eye. With this option, the surgeon uses a microkeratome to mechanically create the flap. A standard excimer laser is then used to reshape the cornea.
Although the risks are low, this procedure may have higher risks than some of the newer methods, including glare. Other factors increase the risk of glare from conventional LASIK, such as pupil size, patient sensitivity, and any history of dry eye or other eye disease. You have to be a good candidate to get this surgery.
Keep in mind that the lower fees here strictly cover the procedure itself, with no follow-up visits. Higher costs can result if you have a complication and follow-up visits are usually not included in the price of the upfront charge.
All-laser wavefront LASIK
For this all-laser approach, the average cost is around $ 2,000 per eye. The flap cut in this procedure is performed by a femtosecond laser. Before performing the corneal ablation (by gently removing the surface of the cornea and treating the refractive error on its front surface), an individualized map of the surface of your eye is made, then the cornea is reshaped with a wavefront guided laser.
This laser projects infrared light into the eye and measures other irregularities, in addition to the sphere and cylinder, which can affect vision.
If the surgeon does not use the laser to cut the flap but still uses wavefront technology to reshape the cornea, the cost will be somewhere between the price of conventional and wavefront techniques.
This technology captures 22,000 distinct images of your eye to guide you through surface reshaping. Typical technology is based on just 9,000 images. As a result, colors can be much more vivid and textures much more nuanced after surgery. On average, this type of personalized LASIK costs around $ 2,300 per eye.
Factors affecting the cost:
- Degree of vision correction required
- The reputation, experience and skills of the surgeon
- Type of laser technology used
Payment for LASIK does not necessarily have to be done all at once. In some cases, you may be able to obtain financing through a finance company.
The time you have to repay this financing will vary depending on the type of loan. Some plans may require you to make your payments over a short period of three months. While others may allow you to extend these payments for up to five years.
You can usually apply for such financing the same way you would for any other loan: by contacting a business, filling out the appropriate paperwork, and providing the necessary identification, in person or electronically. It may even be possible to get such financing online with extremely fast approval, sometimes even within minutes.
In addition to external funding options, some surgeons themselves may offer funding directly through their practice. It pays to check what is available. This can allow you to make payments over several years at no additional cost.
Even if installment payments aren’t available, check to see if the surgeon’s office has a preferred finance company to work with. Also, be prepared to make your payments on time. Missed payments can have costly repercussions.
While it may be tempting to consider the super-discounted LASIK rates seen in some advertisements, keep the following in mind:
- Most people do not qualify for the rate offered due to the extent or type of correction needed.
- Additional charges may apply for items generally included in the cost that are not included here, such as office visits, disposable surgical equipment, or facility fees, which may increase the cost by up to, otherwise plus, the average amount.
- Older and less precise equipment can be used.
- LASIK retreatments, which may be necessary if your result is not perfect, may not be covered by inexpensive LASIK procedures, resulting in additional expense.
In most cases, a vision plan will not cover LASIK, as it is an elective cosmetic procedure. But if there is a medical reason for having LASIK, such as an inability to wear glasses or contacts or if it is necessary due to previous ineffective surgery or injury, the procedure may be covered.
In addition, in some cases it can sometimes be covered, at least in part. Some larger insurance companies may offer discounts of around 50% when LASIK is performed by a network provider. If done outside the grid, a smaller reduction may be available.
Ways to Cut LASIK Costs
To make LASIK more affordable:
- Check what your insurance policy might provide, especially with network doctors.
- See if you can use pre-tax funds in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) for the procedure.
- Consider the financing options that would allow you to pay for LASIK over time.
Use your FSA or HSA
Some people rely on funds from their Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA, also known as a Flexible Spending Account) to help pay for LASIK. This type of account is an arrangement with your employer to deduct a certain portion of your salary to be used for health care costs. The good news is that this is pre-tax income.
However, keep in mind that you can only contribute $ 2,750 to the account per year, which may be less than what is required to have LASIK surgery on both eyes.
For those who have a high deductible health insurance plan through an employer, it may be possible to build the funds needed for LASIK into a health savings account (HSA). This allows you to contribute tax-free funds to the account, with an annual limit in 2021 of $ 3,600 per person.
The good news is that you can keep the money in the account and add to it the following year, which helps fund an average LASIK procedure that way.
Regardless of which funding method you choose, it is very important that you research and select a reputable, knowledgeable ophthalmologist to determine if you are a good candidate for LASIK. This can reduce the expense of complications.