Vision insurance helps to defray the cost of eye exams, glasses and, in some plans, contact lenses. It may also offer additional discounts, as well, although it doesn't usually cover diseases or eye injuries. Since it doesn't protect you against major unforeseen expenses, deciding whether to get vision insurance is relatively simple -- if it saves you more than you spend on it, carry it. If not, don't.
Identify Your Needs
The first step in figuring out if you need vision insurance is to identify what your vision care needs are. For example, you may get yearly eye checkups that would be covered -- at least in part -- by your vision insurance. In addition, if you wear glasses or contact lenses, those would also be covered. Consider what type of frames you wear, as well. Vision insurance probably will only cover certain frames, so if you prefer designer glasses, you could end up with high out-of-pocket expenses. Give some thought to how often you purchase glasses or contacts. If you only get new glasses every few years, a policy that gives you a new pair every year could go to waste.
Find Existing Coverage
Look at your existing coverage. Some health insurance plans include eye exams, which reduces the amount of value you'd get from your vision insurance. Others will pay for an exam if you have a complaint, like dry eyes or floaters. You might even have vision insurance without realizing it: Some dental insurance plans include vision coverage. In these cases, you probably won't need to add a separate vision policy.
If you're open to changing how you get your vision care services, you may be able to pay less than you currently are. For example, many discount stores like Costco, Wal-Mart and Target have in-store optometrists who offer low-cost eye exams and contact lens fittings. In addition, you can save money on glasses and contacts by using coupons and membership discounts. If you're willing to buy glasses online, direct opticians offer prescription glasses for a small fraction of what you'd pay at a traditional outlet.
To decide if vision insurance makes sense for you, add up what you'd spend without it and see if it saves you money. For example, if a vision insurance policy costs $15 per month and has a $15 co-pay for an eye exam, it costs you $195 per year just for an exam. If you can get an exam for $100 and don't need anything else, you'll come out $95 ahead without the plan. If it saves you $100 on glasses, you're $5 better off with the plan.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.