Medicare Vision Coverage vs. Vision Insurance

Vision health is a crucial aspect of overall well-being, and many people rely on vision insurance to help cover the costs of eye exams, glasses, and contact lenses. For those eligible for Medicare, there are two primary options when it comes to protecting the health of your eyes and vision: Medicare vision coverage and a private vision insurance plan

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between Medicare vision and private vision insurance coverage, helping you make an informed decision to best suit your vision care needs.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)

Before diving into the specifics of Medicare and private vision insurance, it’s essential to understand the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). AEP is a specific timeframe during which individuals can make changes to their Medicare plans or enroll in new coverage options. AEP typically runs from October 15th to December 7th each year. During this period, you can sign up for or switch your Medicare plan to include vision coverage or consider private vision insurance options.
With a standalone vision insurance plan, you can enroll year-round. Check with the private vision insurance company to see about their enrollment times and any possible waiting periods.

Medicare Vision Coverage

Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily designed for individuals aged 65 and older. Medicare also covers certain younger individuals with chronic health conditions. While it provides comprehensive healthcare coverage, including hospitalization (Part A) and medical services (Part B), Original Medicare doesn’t offer standalone vision insurance. However, some aspects of eye care can be covered through different parts of Medicare:

  • What Does Medicare Part A Cover: Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care and limited skilled nursing facility care. It does not include eye or vision coverage for normal correction and prevention.
  • What Does Medicare Part B Cover: Medicare Part B covers medically necessary services, such as preventive and diagnostic eye exams, only if you have specific eye conditions or diseases. It may also cover certain treatments and surgeries related to eye health. Part B doesn’t cover the cost of eyeglasses or contact lenses for routine vision correction.
  • What Does Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) Cover: Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and often include vision benefits that can vary from plan to plan. These benefits may include coverage for routine eye exams, eyeglasses, and contact lenses. It’s essential to understand the details of the Medicare Advantage plan you’re considering, and the extent of its vision coverage.
  • What Does Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) Cover: Medicare Part D plans provide coverage for prescription medications, which may include eye drops and medications related to eye conditions. 

Does Medicare Cover Glasses?

One common question people have is whether Medicare covers the cost of eyeglasses. In most cases, traditional Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not cover the expenses associated with eyeglasses or contact lenses for routine vision correction. However, if you require eyeglasses or contact lenses following cataract surgery, Medicare may cover a portion of the cost for one pair of standard frames and lenses. It's important to note that this coverage is limited and does not extend to routine vision correction.

Medicare Vision Benefits with Medicare Supplement (Medigap)

While Medicare itself doesn't provide routine vision coverage, you have the option to enhance your Medicare benefits by purchasing a Medigap (Medicare Supplement) policy. Medigap plans are offered by private insurance companies and can help fill the gaps in your Original Medicare coverage, including vision-related expenses.
Some Medigap plans may offer limited vision benefits, such as coverage for routine eye exams and eyeglasses. However, the availability of these benefits can vary depending on the specific Medigap plan you choose. Be sure to carefully review the coverage options and compare different Medigap plans to find one that suits your vision care needs. 

Private Vision Insurance

Private vision insurance, often offered by commercial insurance companies such as VSP, is distinct from Medicare coverage. It is typically purchased separately to provide coverage for routine vision care services, including exams and vision correction. Just as health insurance protects you against medical expenses, vision insurance focuses specifically on your eye care needs.

Here's what private vision insurance may offer that is different from Medicare vision coverage:

  • Customizable Vision Coverage: Private vision insurance plans allow you to tailor your coverage to meet your specific needs. You can choose from various plan options, including coverage for eye exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and even LASIK surgery. This allows you to select a plan that aligns with your vision care priorities.
  • Access to a Network: Private vision insurance plans often come with a network of preferred providers, including optometrists and ophthalmologists. Visiting in-network providers can result in lower out-of-pocket costs for your vision care services. However, some plans also offer out-of-network coverage, albeit at a higher cost.
  • Coverage for Eyeglasses and Contacts: Unlike traditional Medicare, private vision insurance plans typically cover the cost of eyeglasses and contact lenses for routine vision correction. This can be a significant advantage if you rely on these visual aids to maintain optimal eyesight.
  • No Age Restrictions: Private vision insurance is available to individuals of all ages, whereas Medicare is primarily intended for those aged 65 and older. This means that individuals under the age of 65 can also access vision coverage through private insurance.
  • Additional Vision Benefits: Some private vision insurance plans may include additional benefits such as discounts on frames, lenses, and lens coatings. These extra perks can provide added value for policyholders.


Understanding the differences between Medicare vision coverage and private vision insurance coverage is essential when making decisions about your vision care needs. While Medicare offers some limited coverage for specific eye conditions and treatments, it does not provide complete vision benefits for routine eye exams, eyeglasses, or contact lenses.

Private vision insurance, on the other hand, can offer customizable coverage options and the ability to choose plans that align with your specific requirements. Whether you're eligible for Medicare or not, evaluating your vision insurance options and comparing plans can help you ensure that your eyesight remains in optimal condition throughout your life. 

During the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), be sure to explore your options and select the best plan to safeguard your vision health. While vision insurance comes with a cost, the benefits will nearly always save you money in the long run.
It’s important to look for a plan that includes a network of reputable eye care professionals in your area. This ensures you have easy access to quality eye care services. With VSP, you’ll have access to a huge network of eye doctors all over the country.

Get started today! The VSP Vision Plan Wizard can find the vision plan that’s right for you and your family.

*Check your Medicare Plan to see if your vision care needs are covered. And/or if a VSP Individual Vision Plan is right for you. VSP Vision Care does not coordinate benefits with Medicare.

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