Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 05/19/17 11:13 AM
As I look over the list of questions I’ve got from the staff, I see that Marylee wrote half of them. Because I know and trust her, I can assure you that it is because she spends so much time with patients and know what questions patients tend to have, and I am 99% sure that these are not actual questions she has. I know this because our patients walk out well-informed and excited about LASIK, and I can’t imagine they are just in there Googling their questions. Today’s question is “Will insurance ever cover LASIK?”*
Insurance covered eye care is an interesting thing. Usually the world of insurance has very clear boundaries. Does this matter for your health? If the answer is “yes”, then they will cover it if you spend 10 hours on the phone with them over five different phone calls. If the answer is “no”, then they will laugh in your face. Except they don’t have a person to answer your phone calls, so you have to call into an automated voice prompt answering service that laughs in your face.
But there is always gray area in life. Your eyes happen to be in that shaded area in the middle of a Venn diagram between elective and insurance based payment. Myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism are all clearly diagnosed medical conditions. Insurance generally covers diagnosis of them and in many cases treatment of them with glasses. It is a body part that isn’t working, but the permanent fix for it (which in this case is LASIK) is viewed as elective.
Personally, I look at this like covering a broken leg by providing crutches. To be fair though, I am in the minority on this. I’m probably biased because when I had laser eye surgery, it changed my life. It was like having a part of my body that didn’t work, all of a sudden, work perfectly. It was like being tone deaf and turning into a beautiful singer. It seems like if there’s any body improvement that dramatic, insurance should cover it. But again, I’m biased because of my experience. Oh and also because I’m a LASIK surgeon. I see that.
*The short answer is that insurance doesn’t cover LASIK because it is elective and they’d rather help pay for glasses over the longterm or not pay anything. Sometimes insurance will pay a percentage of the surgery and we honor that discount when they do.