It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Seeing the Vision Plan Clearly. Finally.

This post is part of a series on choosing benefits.  Today I will look at the ins and outs of our choices for Vision Care.

Husband has worked for Large Conglomerate for nearly seven years, and 2009 will be only the third year they’ve offered vision coverage.  I wear contact lenses, and I am a very serious, naughty overwearer.  I believe I’m supposed to wear each daily lens for two weeks before discarding them and using fresh lenses.  For me it’s often more like two months.  Or more.

I was thrilled when they started offering this coverage, as it had been twelve years since I’d gotten new glasses.  Granted, I only wear them at night, but the prescription was just not getting the job done, and my frames were past the point of repair.   Can you say tape?

The offerings this year are the same as that first year, and it is through VSP.   They offer the VSP Core Plan and the VSP Core Plan with Buy-Up.

VSP Core Plan

  • One eye exam every twelve months after $10 copayment.
  • $A 200 allowance applies to the cost of my contacts and the contact lens exam.


  • One pair of lenses per year and one pair of frames every 24 months after $25 copayment.
  • A $200 allowance applies to the cost of the frames.
  • The cost of frames exceeding $200, additional prescription glasses and sunglasses all receive a 20% discount.

VSP Core Plan with Buy-Up is the same as the Core Plan except:

  • Two separate $200 allowances applies to the cost of my contacts and the contact lens exam.


  • Two pair of lenses per year and two pairs of frames every 24 months after $25 copayment.
  • Two separate $200 frame allowances.

Or, you can do what I did that first year and get one pair of glasses and one set of contacts.

Husband has never worn glasses, so until this year I was the only one using it.  I chose the VSP Core Plan with Buy-Up that first year because I needed new glasses and contacts, and actually broke even (other than the premiums) because there was a rebate on the contacts which covered my copayments.

Pitfalls and PITAs and Good News

I know I could get glasses and contacts much cheaper than I can through the opticians covered under the plan, through Costco or Walmart or any number of online purveyors.  A lot cheaper.  But I’d still have to pay for an exam and a contact lens prescription, and it’s been my experience that doctors actually charged me for an eyeglass prescription of I wasn’t getting my glasses there.  Which really, really peeves me.

The biggest pitfall to this program is that they do not have any accounts with any of the discount retailers, which you would think would save them money.   Our optician gave me the reason for that when she told me that they do all of their own lensmaking, so it saves them a fortune.  And I’m sure they only reimburse a fraction of the retail price on the frames, too.   I have gone over the coverage limit and had to pay out of pocket.

On the other hand, last year the optician price-matched the lowest price I found online for the contact lenses.   With the rebate I wound up making money on the deal.

Last year and this year we skipped the Buy-Up and just did the VSP Core Plan. I actually have my appointment for this year’s lenses tomorrow morning (after 20 months I’m getting low on lenses).  I was contemplating letting the coverage go next year, figuring that I could do just as well through a discounter and that I probably would not need to buy lenses next year at all.  But then we found out that Husband needed glasses, for the first time ever.  Getting old has it’s challenges!

Because he’s diabetic we wanted to go to our Opthamologist, who is not on the plan (though other Opthamologists are).  We walked in to the optician (one of those people who are really, really good at their job and just accentuate the crappy customer service you get everywhere else) with a prescription and walked out with a pair of really killer titanium lenses with polycarbonate scratch-resistant lenses, glare protection (pretty important here in the land of the sun),  and clip-on sunglasses for $75 out of pocket.  That’s a pretty good deal that I don’t think I could have matched online.  Fantastic Optician also commented that VSP is the best Vision plan she’s ever seen, so that was an interesting tidbit, too.

So, let’s look at the costs for 2009.

VSP Core Plan 2009 Annual Premium: $85.32 (Note: I do not get the family plan for this, I select the Employee + 1 pricing.  Son does not need Vision Care, so why pay extra?)

Copayments:  $20

VSP Core Plan with Buy-Up 2009 Annual Premium:  $113.40

Copayments:  $20

So, bottom line is that now that Husband and I are both visually challenged this becomes an even better deal for us.   And something else occurred to me just this very second.

I’m thinking that perhaps we’ll do the VSP Core Plan with Buy-Up this year.  For an addtiional $28.08 ( that’s only $1.17 per paycheck – and paid with pre-tax dollars!)  I can get twice the amount of contacts and Husband can pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses, and  we can likely skip the coverage for 2010, and maybe even 2011 and save those premiums.

Oh, yes.  We will definitely be doing the VSP Core Plan with the Buy-Up this year.

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Read the rest of the series!

It’s Benefits Enrollment Time, Series Overview

It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Medical Insurance Part 1 – Evaluating What You’ve Got

It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Medical Insurance Part 2 – The Plans and What They Really Cost

It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Dental Insurance and Why The Math is So Important

It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Life Insurance a Bargain For Us

It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Disability and Long Term Care Insurance are Good to Have


2 Responses to “It’s Benefit Enrollment Time – Seeing the Vision Plan Clearly. Finally.”

  1. Alison Says:

    How much more would it cost to add Son to the plan? Would it cost less than a visit to the eye doctor for him? He doesn’t need vision care now, but you never know what the next year might bring. Just something to think about.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Buying contact lens and glasses at atime is too costlier but the VSP plan is really good. I use contact lens from past 1 years and i need to change them. I stay at Austin can anyone please help me to know whether the contact lenses from VSP can be bought online and what are the shipping expenses.
    Thank You.

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