My Eyes Were Open By Overpriced Vision Care


Last week I had a vision exam and received a prescription for a new pair of reading glasses and replacement progressive lenses. I have medical and dental insurance that I pay for myself, but I don’t have separate vision coverage nor does my health plan cover any non-injury eye care. Fortunately, I have a health savings account with a few bucks in it because my total bill for eye exam, photos of my eye, reading glasses and replacement progressive lenses was $1,474. Yes, an eye-popping $1,474.

And the funny thing about the whole experience is that the very nice optician who assisted me after my exam and the rest of the office staff seemed embarrassed by my bill. I don’t think they ever saw a bill so large and neither had I. It’s been awhile since I had to pay the full price for my eye care. To be honest, I don’t remember ever paying full price for an exam or glasses—it was always covered by insurance. Sure, I paid a few hundred bucks towards the cost but not nearly $2k.

Confession: I do have poor eyesight and am a lifelong four eyes. I have astigmatism, am extremely farsighted and wear progressive lenses. All of this “eye care” cost money but what it cost is unbelievable. The price tag for high index lenses (to reduce their thickness and heaviness) is just over $300 for the set. And of course you want your lenses to be anti-glare, well that is going to cost you another $150 per set… Who doesn’t want anti-glare lenses and why aren’t they standard? Oh, let’s not forget the other coatings they put on lenses to increase clarity of night vision or something… Again, why aren’t these coatings a standard part of all lenses and why do they cost an additional $110 dollars per set?

The Frame Game

I went to the eye doctor’s office knowing that
eyeglass frames had one of the biggest markups of any product sold, so I wasn’t surprised by the price tag. Disappointed. Yes. I know I could find less expensive frames online or at a retail eye care establishment, but I gave in to convenience. Besides the one pair of frames was just a fraction of my total bill and I did get a 15% discount on them (upon request).

There really is no excuse for plastic or metal frames to cost hundreds of dollars. I opted for the least expensive pair for my new reading glasses. They are small, plastic and lightweight and they cost $160. Fortunately, I am able to reuse my current frames for my new progressive lenses. And I do mean fortunate. If my current frames were warped or simply could not accept my new lenses, you could add another $500 or $600 dollars to my near $1,500 total invoice. I’m not about to wear ugly glasses in public. They don’t have to be high-end designer frames, but they can’t be unsightly either.


It’s clear that all of this breaking out of eyewear features that every eyeglass wearer wants is designed to increase profits, and it does. It’s also clear that I need vision care insurance because eye care establishments charge whatever they want to those of us without it.

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