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Does Medicare Pay for Glasses? Understanding Vision Care Coverage

3 mins read
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Maintaining good vision is vital to overall health and quality of life, especially among senior citizens and other at-risk groups. The rising costs of eyewear and vision care have led to a common concern among many Medicare beneficiaries: Does Medicare pay for glasses?

Let’s review Medicare’s coverage of eyeglasses and provide insights into other related vision care services. 

Original Medicare Coverage for Eyeglasses

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers outpatient services physician consultations and preventative care. When it comes to vision care, however, its scope is somewhat limited. Unlike regular vision insurance, which might cover routine eye exams or discounts on glasses, Part B kicks in mainly when there’s a recognized medical need.

For the most part, Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn’t typically cover eyeglasses or contact lenses. But there’s an exception: If you’ve had cataract surgery involving the implanting of an intraocular lens, Medicare Part B will chip in. It recognizes the need for corrective lenses as part of post-operative care. This essentially means that if you’ve undergone this surgery, Medicare will pay for one pair of glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.

Post-Surgery Coverage Details

Once you’ve paid your annual Part B deductible, you’ll have to cover 20% of the approved amount, while Medicare takes care of the remaining 80%. It’s worth noting that this coverage pertains to standard frames only. If you have a preference for more upscale or designer frames, or you’re considering specialized lens coatings or treatments, prepare for additional out-of-pocket costs.

Types of Lenses and Frames Covered

Medicare ensures beneficiaries get the basic corrective eyewear they require after cataract surgery. This includes standard single-vision, bifocal, and trifocal lenses. To take full advantage of this benefit, always make purchases from suppliers approved by Medicare.

Medicare Advantage Plans and Eyewear Coverage

While Original Medicare provides limited vision care coverage, Medicare Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage plans offer more comprehensive coverage. Private insurance companies offer these plans as a popular alternative to Original Medicare. They often come bundled with additional benefits, and vision coverage is typically one of them.

Eyecare coverage under Medicare Part C includes routine eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and sometimes even prescription sunglasses. The extent of coverage, however, varies from one plan to another. It’s common for these plans to offer an annual allowance towards glasses or contacts, with beneficiaries only responsible for any costs above that allowance. Some plans might even waive copayments for eyewear, making it even more cost-effective for seniors.

Medicare Advantage plans differ significantly from one another in their coverage specifics. For instance, while one plan might cover a comprehensive eye exam every year, another might only cover it every two years. Similarly, some plans might set a dollar limit on eyewear, while others might offer coverage based on a percentage of the cost. Some might even include benefits for treatments like glaucoma screenings or diabetic retinopathy tests, which are crucial for seniors with underlying health conditions. 

Make sure to review the details of each Medicare Advantage plan, consult with plan providers, and compare benefits before making a choice. This ensures you select a plan that aligns with your vision care needs and budgetary considerations.

Vision Care Services Beyond Eyeglasses

Beyond corrective eyeglasses, vision care encompasses a wide range of services. Whether it’s a routine eye exam, prescription sunglasses, or specialized aids for those with severe visual impairments, understanding what Medicare covers is crucial for beneficiaries.

Routine Eye Exams and Preventive Services

Medicare Part B offers coverage for some preventive and diagnostic eye exams, but not for routine vision check-ups. If you have diabetes, for instance, Part B covers an annual eye exam to check for diabetic retinopathy. Similarly, those at a higher risk for glaucoma, a family history of glaucoma, or African Americans aged 50 or older, can get a glaucoma test once every 12 months. These preventive services are essential to identify and treat potential eye diseases early on.

Contact Lenses and Prescription Sunglasses

Original Medicare usually doesn’t cover contact lenses or prescription sunglasses, except after cataract surgery involving intraocular lens implantation. Those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, however, may find plans offering coverage or discounts on these items as part of their extended vision benefits.

Low Vision Aids

For those with severe visual impairments, low vision aids can be a game-changer, enabling them to perform daily tasks independently. While Medicare doesn’t always cover most of these aids, there might be some coverage allowed if a doctor deems them medically necessary due to conditions like macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa. Always check with your Medicare plan and provider to understand your benefits better.

Medically Necessary Contact Lenses

Contact lenses become essential in conditions like severe keratoconus (blurred vision caused by a cone-shaped cornea) or after certain types of corrective eye surgeries. Medicare might provide coverage in some of these cases. As always, the specifics of coverage depend on the exact circumstances and the nature of the medical necessity.

At CoverRight, we’re here to help you navigate the intricacies of Medicare and optimize your coverage. Reach out today and find the vision care plan that’s just right for you.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get progressive lenses with Medicare?

Original Medicare does not cover progressive lenses. Some Medicare Advantage or Part C plans may offer coverage or discounts on progressive lenses. Check your plan details to determine the kind of coverage or benefits it provides.

Does Medicare cover prescription sunglasses?

Original Medicare does not cover prescription sunglasses as a standard benefit. Some Medicare Advantage plans might provide coverage or discounts for prescription sunglasses. Make sure to review your plan details or speak with your plan provider for details.

What if I need bifocals?

Medicare Part B may cover standard bifocal lenses after cataract surgery. For routine needs outside of post-operative care, however, bifocals are typically not covered by Original Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans might offer some coverage or discounts on bifocals, but this varies by plan. 

Richard Chan

Richard is the Founder of CoverRight and based in New York. He is passionate about empowering consumers to take control of their health and finances. Prior to starting CoverRight, Richard had extensive experience working in financial services with over 8 years' experience in consumer lending and investment banking.

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