The single most important thing you can do to protect your vision

(BPT) – You could probably predict the outcome of a study about whether people who don’t have vision insurance get adequate — or any — vision care. Unsurprisingly, less than half of Americans who lack health insurance get eye care services, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yet you might be surprised to learn you can buy vision insurance regardless of whether you have private or public health insurance, get insurance through your employer or buy it on your own, or even if you have none at all. And you can purchase it for roughly the cost of one large coffee-shop beverage per week.

From injuries to age-related vision changes, chances are you or a family member will need eye care at some point. In fact, the CDC predicts within the next four years, half of all Americans will have eye diseases and associated vision loss as the population grows older. “People must have access to eye care services and then actually use the services if their eye conditions are to be detected and treated,” the CDC says. “However, not all U.S. residents have sufficient access to these services.”

Vision insurance can be a cost-effective way to help gain affordable access to vision care, protect your eye health, and reduce the cost of necessities like exams, glasses and contact lenses. Here are some eye-opening facts about vision insurance:

  • Some employers offer vision coverage as a voluntary benefit — that is, an extra benefit that you can pay for. When you get vision coverage through an employer, your company may cover all, a portion of or none of the premium. If your employer doesn’t offer vision insurance, you can purchase it on your own for an affordable cost. For example, VSP Individual Vision Plans offers vision coverage plans as low as $13 per month, depending on your state.
  • A vision benefits plan is not the same as a vision discount plan, although both can be part of a vision insurance plan. A benefits package works much like your health insurance; you may have a co-pay at the time of service with the insurance plan paying some or all of the balance directly to the provider, whom you will chose from an approved network. With a discount plan, you pay for all services but at a lower price that the plan administrators have negotiated with care providers in their network.
  • Vision insurance can save your eyesight and your wallet. Routine eye care can catch problems early, when they are most treatable, and proper treatment can prevent an existing problem from becoming worse or even unmanageable. What’s more, vision insurance can lower the cost of vision care significantly; VSP publicizes that plan-holders typically save an average of $456 a year on eye exams, glasses, contacts and other types of eye care.

According to the CDC, vision disability is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults, and one of the most common disabling conditions among children. Vision problems are also among the most detectable, preventable and treatable conditions, yet only half the estimated 61 million American adults at high risk for serious vision problems saw an eye doctor in the past year, the CDC says.

Having insurance is one of the most critical predictors that you’ll get the health care you need, including vision care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, people who lack insurance are more than twice as likely to delay or skip needed care.

To learn more about vision insurance and find an affordable plan that’s right for you, visit