Types of Vision Coverage

About one-third of Americans over 40 have vision problems, which makes vision coverage a major part of a health insurance plan. The number of visually impaired Americans is projected to double by 2020, so vision insurance is going to be needed by many more people. There are four major types of vision insurance.

Direct Reimbursement Plans

A direct reimbursement plan is frequently used by companies both large and small to provide vision insurance while keeping down costs. The plan has a preset amount of money that you can spend on your vision expenses. When you spend under that amount, the company will reimburse you. Typically, this will include money for an eye exam and a pair of glasses, or a few months' worth of contacts. Once you exceed this limit---say, if you need to get an additional pair of glasses---your employer will pay only a percentage of the rest of the cost.

Managed-Care Vision Plans

Managed-care vision plans are similar to direct reimbursement plans, but they require you to go to certain vision specialists. The plan has a network of eye care providers you can use, but if you go outside of the network, you may end up paying more because of plan restrictions. Managed-care plans cost about the same amount of money per person as direct reimbursement plans.

Discount Vision Plans

Discount vision plans are those in which you are given a discount for various vision services through your company. Like the managed-care plans, you must use specific doctors from a network. You get a preset discount that varies depending on the services needed. There are no deductibles, co-payments or premiums, just discounts across the board. It is essentially like having a coupon for your vision expenses that you can use over and over again. Many companies use this simple type of coverage for their vision plans.

General Health Care Coverage

The rarest type of vision insurance is when a company offers coverage as part of a general health care plan. With this plan, premiums vary from company to company, but they are usually similar to managed-care premiums. The main distinction is that you are paying everything to one overall insurance company, which may be associated with vision care insurance companies.