The Cost of Getting Your Eyes Checked (When Your Health Insurance Does Not Include Vision)


Last year, I got my eyes checked for the first time since 2011 because I was suffering from a little eyestrain (diagnosis: too much laptop, not enough sleep, and I was able to fix one of those). When I went in, I got my eyes checked in this fancy new machine that took a photo of the inside of my eyeball, and from that photo I was also diagnosed with “a little extra intraocular pressure, maybe nothing, maybe one of the early signs of glaucoma.”

My prescription: never missing an annual eye exam again.

So I went back yesterday afternoon. The exam cost $139.30, except they also wanted to know if I would be willing to pay an extra $45 to get my eyes tested in that same fancy machine that used a “highly sophisticated procedure” to find the early signs of glaucoma. I figured that I should pay the extra $45, since one of the reasons I had made the appointment was to ensure my “maybe nothing maybe glaucoma” hadn’t actually progressed to “glaucoma.”

It hadn’t. In fact, this optometrist, who was a different optometrist than I had seen last year, seemed completely unconcerned about my intraocular pressure (even after I asked him to check). The last optometrist had put me through a series of tests to ensure none of my peripheral vision had started to degrade, and I had diligently conducted similar tests over the course of the past year. Can I hold my arms out at either side and still see them in my peripheral vision? Absolutely.

This optometrist also warned me about the dangers of “too much laptop” without really specifying what the dangers were. At this point, my 11-inch MacBook Air is my home office, my television, my shopping mall, my “living room where I hang out with friends,” and my “cocktail party where I flirt with potential dating options.” If I close the laptop, I can either read a book, scrub the floor, stare at a wall, or pay money to go sit in a bar or movie theater somewhere. It’s staying open.

But we both confirmed that it was about time to update my prescription and get new glasses, and so I started the awful process of trying on a hundred different frames while a helpful salesperson says “those look great!” after nearly every one. This always makes me anxious, because I feel like everyone else in the room is just waiting for me to hurry up and choose already. I am very picky about my glasses.

These are my power colors.  What are yours?

These are my power colors. What are yours?

At one point, the salesperson said “those look great!” and I said “but they don’t match my clothes or my jewelry,” because I read Tom and Lorenzo’s blog, I know what my power colors are, and I know that I need to find glasses that are both in harmony with my usual dark blue/slate/black ensemble and also on trend.

And then I found them. The Lafont Lucrese 675. Trendy thick frames with a slight cat-eye shape, since apparently we’re moving back to bigger frames now (I could seriously have purchased Sally Jessy Raphael glasses if I had wanted them) and both blue and brown tones.

“Those look great!” the salesperson said. “They cost $414.”

At that point I wanted to bang my forehead against the mirrored wall and ask “does everything cost some ridiculous amount of money these days?” Glasses should cost no more than $150. My health insurance program should give me at least some kind of discount on my eye exam and my new frames. (I asked if they could run my card, just to make sure there wasn’t any kind of discount hiding in there, and there wasn’t.) I should be able to earn $60K/year and live in a one-bedroom apartment.

It just makes you feel like the cost of life is insurmountable.

I mean, what I’m going to do is use that laptop I’m not supposed to stare at to conduct some price searching and go to a place like SmartBuyGlasses and grab the Lafont Lucrese 675 frames for $182 plus the cost of lenses. So the cost of life isn’t really insurmountable. The cost of buying those glasses from that optometrist’s office is more than I can afford. That’s all. Reframing the problem (PUN INTENDED) is the first step in finding a solution.

On the plus side, I did pay $184.30 to confirm that I do not have glaucoma, or at least not this year.



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