Eye Care for Seniors

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Getting older comes with different effects on the body. One of the most prevalent changes occur with the eyes. Some seniors may start having a loss of vision, resulting in the need for an eye exam. There are many different senior eye care programs available that can assist in handling these expenses because some insurance plans require a special senior eye care insurance policy, and Medicare Part B does not pay for routine eye exams, glasses, or contact lenses.

The good news is, there are multiple places that cater to eye care for seniors. In fact, there are places that provide free eye exams for seniors to ensure they are getting the resources and care they need. Eye care insurance for seniors is needed because most of them are already on a fixed income. With the cost of senior eyeglasses being out of reach for some, subsidiary costs are welcome.

How important is eye care for seniors?

As seniors get older, regular eye care should be a high priority. While there are several factors that can affect vision, paying attention to maintaining a healthy diet and some form of exercise can assist in preventing progressive vision loss. As the eyes worsen, driving could become an issue. People rely on their vision to function. As the aging process continues, the mind and body start experiencing changes that can be scary. When vision becomes impaired, it creates a snowball effect that may result in depression, anxiety, slip and falls, withdrawal from activities, and other conditions.

Getting regular vision checkups is vital because underlying issues can also be detected during the exam. Depending on the condition of the eye and the age of the senior, annual or bi-annual eye exams may be required.

What could happen if the eyes are not checked?

There are a few things that can occur. Some eye care issues involve age-related conditions like glaucoma. There may be no warning for those who get glaucoma. This is why it is very important to get eye exams as recommended. Another condition is age-related macular degeneration, which occurs by blurring the central vision. People who smoke should refrain, exercise regularly, eat healthy diets with leafy green vegetables and fish, and watch their blood pressure and cholesterol.

Cataracts are also a common occurrence. Some symptoms include trouble seeing at night, seeing double, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, halos around lights, and colors that aren’t as clear anymore. Surgery is available that can assist.

Dry eye is another common occurrence that can impact vision. Burning eyes or irritation of the eyes, red eyes, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and watery eyes are symptoms of dry eye. This is very common in older adults.

Ways to maintain eye health

There are ways to help maintain good eye health. First, get routine medical and vision care and senior eye exams. Additionally, if the senior is experiencing additional changes in their body or starts experiencing problems with their eyes, they can wear eye protection, increase lighting in the room, exercise in some way, wear sunglasses, get sleep and rest, and eat healthily.

What is a senior eye care program?

A senior eye care program is one where qualified individuals can get a comprehensive senior eye exam at no cost. In fact, EyeCare America is one of the providers that offer a free eye exam for seniors who are 65 or older and eligible for the program. These individuals are also vulnerable to getting glaucoma.

The program is designed to increase awareness about age-related eye disease while providing senior eye care and free eye exams to prevent diseases of the eyes. Qualifications include being a US citizen or legal resident aged 65 or older, not have seen an ophthalmologist in at least three years, and they do not belong to the VA or an HMO.

Additional senior eye care programs include:

  • Lions’ Club
  • New Eyes for the Needy

While Medicare Part B does not pay for routine vision exams or glasses, there is certain eye-related vision care that is covered:

  • Annual exam testing for diabetic retinopathy
  • Annual glaucoma test for at-risk individuals (diabetes, African-Americans 50+, Hispanics 65+, and those with a family history of glaucoma)
  • Macular degeneration diagnostic tests and screenings
  • Cataract surgery, including a pair of post-surgery eyeglasses or contact lenses

There are Medicare Advantage plans (Plan C) that do cover some vision benefits. This is another way to get coverage for Medicare through a private vision insurance policy. These plans offer benefits that aren’t covered by Medicare. An additional solution that may work is a MediGap plan, which is a Medicare supplement plan. This covers basic eye exams, eyeglass lenses, frames, and contact lenses.

What is Vision Insurance?

Vision insurance is a plan to help policyholders have lower costs for routine eye care. These policies may cover corrective surgery and procedures. It does not work the same way as standard medical insurance, but they do cover most, if not all, eye exams, frames, lenses, contact lenses, LASIK, and other procedures. These policies have different criteria and the costs are different based on the type of policy acquired by the senior. Seniors who have vision insurance have the advantage of being able to get eye exams whenever they are recommended to get them without worry that they won’t be able to cover their needs.

Senior Eye Care Insurance Options

There are a few eye care insurance for seniors policies available to help maintain healthy eyes and prevent or detect the occurrence of eye disease. This helps in lessening costs for seniors to make it more affordable to take care of their eyes. These senior eye care plans can make a difference:

  • VSP
    A VSP plan is used in conjunction with Medicare to help seniors get the vision care they need. These are available through a larger network provider. VSP is well known and has the largest independent provider network in the country. There is full coverage for routine eye needs after meeting the required deductible.
  • UnitedHealthcare
    UnitedHealthcare is known for its seniors’ eye care program that has several benefits for reasonable rates. This helps seniors in getting eye care exams and eyeglasses from retailers like Target and Costco along with thousands of other eye care providers. One of the advantages of this insurance plan is that there are no enrollment fees and there are out-of-network benefits that are highly lauded. They are generous with their eyeglass frame allowance, and they are known throughout the industry to be solid when it comes to filing claims.
  • Direct Vision Insurance
    This insurance has a network of opticians and ophthalmologists accessible through discounts and other savings on aids to help correct vision, and other standard services. Pricing varies, but they have flexible, affordable plans that don’t have waiting periods and no claim forms to fill out. They also have discounts if the senior needs LASIK surgery.
  • Spirit Vision
    While a smaller company, Spirit Vision has generous policy limits and other types of insurance policies that may benefit seniors. There are very small co-payments for routine services, there are customized plans based on the senior and what’s needed. Major procedures do not have to wait, and they have bundled plans.

Getting to the information is just as important as having the information. There are hubs that help seniors find eye care insurance. eHealth is one of those hubs. A marketplace where seniors can find eye insurance, they have one of the largest networks of providers to assist. They have a user-friendly website where side-by-side comparisons can be made. Seniors who need assistance from a loved one to determine the right policy can easily acquire the information. Another advantage of using this hub is that it carefully explains each section and gives the coverage types to make informed decisions.

Additional resources that can assist with senior eye care include the AMD resource through the American Academy of Ophthalmology; the National Federation of the Blind; Glaucoma Foundation; VisionAware, and the National Eye Institute.

Understanding the pros and cons of senior eye care insurance

Having access to free insurance and programs is helpful, but private vision insurance is also a good solution for saving money on eyeglass frames and lenses. There are some insurance programs that have great networks and are accessible to seniors. There are also networks that have limitations that limit the senior from getting an in-network doctor. This could put the seniors at a disadvantage because they have to switch doctors they are comfortable with. In most cases, seniors have been with their doctors for many, many years, creating anxiety if they must go see someone new.

Getting the right senior eye care discounts

Many seniors do not know there are discounts available to them. Pricing can get very steep when attempting to pay for these eye care services. A senior eye care discount can have huge discounts when it comes to prescription eyewear. Eye doctors are very concerned with senior eye care and promote healthy vision and doing the work to make sure their eyes are in the best condition they can be. Giving seniors the option to get those eye exams and other resources at a reduced cost.

Beyond the eHealth hub, there are ways seniors or their guardians can find discounts on eye care. The first step is to ask eye care providers if they have senior discounts. If they don’t have senior eye care discounts, they can probably help point the senior in the right direction. Senior-based organizations like AARP also have resources and information on senior eye care discounts and affordable options that help in getting the vision services they need. Vision Source is a website resource that lists eyecare providers and their senior discounts.

With any senior vision insurance plan, thoroughly reviewing all the benefits and what it offers is key. Every plan must be carefully scrutinized to ensure the senior is getting everything they need at the best possible cost. Senior vision discounts and insurance plans can help save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on all the services they need. The qualifications to get into these plans or get discounts vary based on the provider. In most cases, these discounts start at age 55, but there are some that have a requirement of being 65 or older.

It’s important for everyone to care about their eyes as they age, but seniors experience much more if their eyesight starts failing. Keeping up with regular eye appointments can help get their eyes functioning correctly if the symptoms are caught early enough to be rectified. Once a senior starts picking up reading glasses at the drugstore, it’s time to seek additional eye care from a licensed doctor specializing in eye treatment. While some people go once a year, there may be a need to visit more than once if the eyes are starting to always feel tired or vision is getting poor.

It can be surprising knowing that an eye prescription can change in the middle of a year, but it really depends on eye strain, diet, and exercise. Seniors should make getting their eye checked a priority, especially when things just don’t seem right, or they start having problems seeing during the day and at night.

Here are a few things seniors can do to help in practicing good eye care:

  • Know the eye history within the family
  • Be mindful of how contact lenses are worn – clean them as recommended and discard them based on instructions
  • Wear sunglasses when going outdoors or get transitions lenses to protect the eyes
  • Do not smoke
  • Get adequate exercise, which should be about 150 minutes a week according to the AHA
  • Wear protective gear when necessary
  • Eat leafy greens
  • Take Vitamin A

Even if it seems like the senior has good vision, it never hurts to visit an eye doctor to check things out. Again, other underlying conditions can be identified through an eye exam. Putting eye health first is the key to getting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle where vision is unimpaired.


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