Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

Ordering Contacts – Why does it have to be so expensive?

I wear contacts and have since I was in High School.  I see much better wearing them than I do when I wear my glasses.  Up until this point ordering lenses was relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to do.  Up until this particular visit to the doctor I felt like they weren’t out to put me in the most expensive lens possible.

I should begin by acknowledging that we have vision insurance.  It doesn’t pay for everything, but it does pay for a fair amount.  This is the first year that I used it to pay for the exam.  I picked an in-network provider which also happens to be one of those huge nation wide chains you can find in the mall.  My first impression was a fairly positive one.  The place was clean and everyone was very friendly.  They switched up my contact lenses from the ones I’ve been wearing for awhile now which didn’t seem all that unreasonable.  That is, of course, until I found out much they cost.  I’m confident there were more expensive lenses that they could have chosen…though not that many.

I checked 1800-Contacts somewhat begrudgingly given that they’re now associated with Wal-Mart.  Their price was a fair amount cheaper.  To buy four boxes there I’d save enough to just about buy a fifth box if I wanted to.  They mentioned, knowing that I have vision insurance and benefits to pay for contact lenses since they looked it up and showed me the sheet at the beginning of the visit, when I asked about the cost of purchasing the lenses from them that they would price match.

When I went for my follow-up appointment I brought the print-out with.  Would they please order me a pair and match this price?  At first, “Sure!”  Followed by…

“Well, you have insurance.”

“Yes,” I replied.

“We can’t match the price and bill your insurance.  It’s one or the other.”

“But you’re not giving me a discount on the contact lens price because of my insurance or because you’re an in-network provider,”  I answered somewhat flabbergasted.

“I can’t do both, but you are more than welcome to pay for the entire cost of the lenses out-of-pocket and then submit the charges to the insurance yourself.”

“Uhhh…no thank you.”

A few more visits to different large-chain providers yielded me the same result.  This is apparently fairly consistent across the board.  By this point, though, I had become a bit suspicious of the provider.  It wasn’t just the expensive lenses, it’s the expensive tests they want you to have that the insurance won’t cover, and the sunglasses they wanted me to buy because my insurance also provides a frame benefit.  I was strongly encouraged to pick out a pair of overpriced sunglasses because she reasoned you should “get everything you can out of your vision insurance.”

And then I was stuck.  I now had a prescription for a significantly more expensive lens than what I had when I went in there.  I had already used up my one vision exam for the year.  Certainly going to someone else in hopes of getting a different, cheaper lens would negate any potential savings I could potentially make.  Any other changes to the prescription with the original place also required another appointment to be covered by me out-of-pocket.

I sat on the whole thing until I was desperate.  I had no lenses left from my previous prescription and my other prescription had expired.  I could wear my glasses, but didn’t relish the idea of keeping Baby M’s hands off of them.  I called around and found an even cheaper place locally that was also in-network.  I was actually moments away from heading over there to order them.  Before I did that I made one last effort at finding a place to order online for a cheaper price.

And then I stumbled upon VisionDirect.com.  With shipping they were just about $2 cheaper than the local place *AND* that was before any contact lens benefit with my insurance.  VisionDirect.com is out of network so they won’t pay as much for the lenses, but I’ll pay far less in the end.  I don’t know how I missed them the first time around.

Final out of pocket cost:  $34

Next year I’ll be going to the local place for my vision exam and ordering my contacts from VisionDirect.com.  I’m not compensated in any way to recommend them, but I’ve been suggesting their website to just about everyone I know.  Less than a week later (you can fax or email a copy of your prescription to them for faster service) and the new lenses are here just in time.  Even if my insurance doesn’t pay out the bit of contact lens coverage I have available I’ll still come out ahead.  I consider that a win-win situation.

Oh…and for the record, humidity levels have dropped to the 40s so we’re quite a bit more comfortable today!

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