The Financial Hurdle
The financial challenge many patients face with refractive surgery is not the cost per se, but rather that the cost comes all at once.
Compared to refractive surgery, they are less convenient, create risks and cost more over time. Yet most people stay with glasses and contact lenses because the costs per year are low. Coming up with the one-time payment for refractive surgery is just not affordable for many people, particularly younger patients. Even though the life-long savings of refractive surgery are apparent, refractive surgery can be difficult to afford.
Refractive surgery is generally a one-time cost, where glasses and contact lenses cost money year after year. But many patients cannot afford the one-time cost, and so they pay more over a lifetime. With new patient credit programs, refractive surgery can be as affordable as wearing glasses!
Patient credit plans can make refractive surgery as affordable as glasses and contact lenses. Consider some “average” prices for glasses and contact lenses compared with refractive surgery. If the average cost of glasses and contact lenses is $650 per year, which is conservative, it takes less than 8 years to come out ahead with an “average” bilateral LASIK procedure at $5000. The challenge is coming up with the $5000 all at once.
Patient financing options can provide the answer. New financing solutions such as ALPHAEON credit [LINK] allow patients to access refractive surgery for as little as $99 per month. Some centers offer other programs with even lower payments. With these plans, patients can access refractive surgery at nearly the same annual cost as they spend for glasses and contact lenses.
Assuming one-time cost of refractive surgery at $5000 and an annual cost of glasses and contact lenses of $650 per year, having refractive surgery at the average “ocular maturity” age of 18 saves over $13,000 between the ages of 18 and 45. This is a 73% savings compared with wearing glasses and contact lenses!
The only difference is that once the payments are done, the “vision tax” expires, unlike the ongoing expenses of glasses and contact lenses.
The optimal time to have refractive surgery is at “ocular maturity”, or when the eyes stabilize in young adulthood. On average, eyes reach their adult size and shape at age 15 plus or minus 1 year. This means that over 95% of patients will be have been stable for three years by age 18, which explains why the minimum age for the FDA approved lasers for LASIK is 18. Having surgery at this age optimizes the lifetime value. It also improves occupational fitness, safety, appearance and performance. Yet this is a time in life when college payments, first home, auto payments and so many other expenses compete for disposable income. Financing plans can make refractive surgery as affordable as wearing glasses or contact lenses.
Making refractive surgery affordable is critical. It may not be as amazing as a new laser technology, but it has a practical importance that can make it possible to have refractive surgery.