Employee Benefits

How Do I Get Vision Insurance?

3 min read
Feb 13, 2024

Vision insurance provides coverage for routine eye exams and eyewear — including glasses and contacts — and helps lower your out-of-pocket costs. Moreover, it gives you and your family access to a network of vision providers, so you can find providers who take your insurance.

Learn how to get vision insurance, so you can start saving money on essential eye care services.

How to get vision insurance

To get adult vision insurance, you typically have two options: enroll through your employer or purchase a stand-alone policy from an insurance company. If you’re looking for vision coverage solely for your kids, a third option exists, which is to enroll them via the health insurance marketplace (more on this below).

1. Coverage through an employer

Your employer may offer vision insurance as part of your employee benefits package. With employer-sponsored vision insurance, you usually pay a premium through payroll deduction. Your employer might pay for all or a portion of your monthly premium. These plans normally cover routine eye exams, prescription glasses, and contact lenses. In many cases, employer plans extend coverage to eligible dependents, such as spouses and children. But check with your employer to learn what their rules are for family plans.

How to apply for vision insurance from your employer:

Employer-sponsored vision insurance is typically offered during your company's open enrollment period. Dates can vary by employer but are generally held in October and November. During this time, you can enroll in or make changes to your existing vision insurance plan.

2. Coverage directly from an insurance company

You can also get vision insurance on your own, directly through an insurance provider. Getting stand-alone vision insurance means you aren’t bound to enrollment periods, as coverage is offered anytime throughout the year. Depending on the plan and the provider, you may also be able to extend coverage to family members.

Keep in mind that having individual vision insurance instead of going through an employer means you’re solely responsible for premiums and other costs.

How to apply for vision insurance from an insurance company:

After researching and comparing providers, you can request a quote and apply online or over the phone. Consider factors like coverage, premiums, in-network providers, and any additional benefits. Choose the plan that best aligns with your needs and budget.

3. Coverage via the insurance marketplace

Adult vision insurance typically isn’t offered through the health insurance marketplace, however, pediatric vision benefits are required under the Affordable Care Act.1 This means vision coverage for children is included in health insurance plans from the marketplace. For stand-alone adult vision coverage, you’d typically need to get it directly from an insurance company if your employer doesn't offer it (as explained above).

The open enrollment period for marketplace plans is usually held between November and December.

How to apply for pediatric vision insurance from the health insurance marketplace:

Most states use HealthCare.gov as the official website for the health insurance marketplace. To enroll in pediatric vision insurance, you can apply directly on this site. Additionally, some state-run health insurance exchanges have developed partnerships with stand-alone vision providers, so you may be able to access vision benefits through those exchanges as well.1

Preventative Vision Care Can Protect Your Overall Health

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What to look for when buying vision insurance

To help you better evaluate your options when it comes to vision insurance plans and providers, consider the following factors:

●        Coverage: Most vision plans cover things like annual eye exams, prescription glasses, and contact lenses. Depending on the plan, additional benefits may include discounts on laser vision correction, lens enhancements, and other eye-related materials and services.

●        Provider network: With a vision plan, you’ll be connected to a network of optometrists and ophthalmologists. Examine the plan’s in-network vision providers and specialists to ensure you’ll have the access you need.

●        Premiums: The cost of premiums can vary by location, the number of people covered, and the plan type. More comprehensive coverage can increase premiums.

●        Copayments and allowances: In addition to premiums, you may also have copayments and allowances. Evaluate your cost sharing responsibilities to determine which plan is right for you.

Does my health insurance cover vision?

Health insurance doesn’t normally cover routine eye exams and eyewear (although there are health plans that have vision insurance imbedded in their coverage). Generally, services to treat medical conditions, such as eye diseases, are reserved for health insurance.1 In some cases, a health plan may also cover the cost of glasses after treatment for an eye illness.

However, purchasing health insurance from the marketplace will include coverage for pediatric vision services.2

Can I get vision insurance from my spouse or parent’s plan?

Many employer-sponsored vision insurance plans offer the option to add eligible dependents — such as a spouse or child — to your policy. If your spouse or parent would like to add you as a dependent, they’d typically need to do this when they first enroll or during their company’s annual open enrollment period. Keep in mind that coverage for dependent children is usually available until they reach the age of 26.3

The ability to add family members to your vision insurance may also be available for plans you purchase on your own. Check with your employer or insurance provider to learn what the requirements are for claiming dependents.

How does COBRA work with vision insurance?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows employees to continue their group health insurance coverage after experiencing a qualifying life event, such as job loss or a reduction in work hours. However, coverage under COBRA is temporary, lasting around 18 or 36 months.4

In addition to health insurance, COBRA continuation coverage also often extends to dental and vision benefits.5 It’s advisable that you review COBRA’s guidelines to learn more about how COBRA works with vision insurance and other benefits.

Should I get vision insurance if I don't wear glasses?

Even if you don’t wear glasses or have vision-related problems, a comprehensive vision plan can still be beneficial for checking your vision and maintaining your overall health. With vision insurance, you ensure you have access to regular eye checkups and exams, which can help detect early signs of eye diseases, as well as serious health conditions — such as heart disease or diabetes.6 Ultimately, vision insurance is for everyone, and it’s a proactive way to prioritize your vision and overall well-being.

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1 “Preventive care benefits for children,” Healthcare.gov. Accessed Feb 2, 2024.

2 “Vision coverage,” HealthCare.gov. Accessed Feb 2, 2024.

3 “How to get or stay on a parent’s plan,” HealthCare.gov. Accessed Feb 2, 2024.

4 “An Employee’s Guide to Health Benefits Under COBRA,” U.S. Department of Labor. Accessed Feb 2, 2024.

5 “Can I Keep My Dental and Vision Plans While On COBRA?” COBRAinsurance.com. Accessed Feb 2, 2024.

6 “20 Surprising Health Problems an Eye Exam Can Catch,” American Academy of Ophthalmology Jan 2023. Accessed Feb 2, 2024.

Nothing in these materials is intended to be advice for a particular situation or individual. These materials are for general information purposes only.