The most important decisions to be made when considering LASIK or other vision correction surgery involve questions of safety, experience, and technology, but the cost of the procedure can also be an important issue. In today's economy, many predicted that LASIK surgery would see a decrease in volume. Instead, it turns out to be a bit more complicated.
Certainly, there are many discount centers (mainly larger corporate owned centers) that have struggled. In contrast, as a physician-owned private practice, Hoopes Vision has been fortunate enough to see more patients each year. Dr. Phillip Hoopes, founder of Hoopes Vision, attributes their success to their commitment to providing the best and safest technology and premium service to their patients at all times. "In harder economic times, many places will look to find ways to cut expenses in order to turn a profit. For us, the best technology and results are always paramount, and I think people notice that and, in turn, feel they can trust us with something as valuable as their sight. People are certainly still having surgery in these times, and recognize it as an investment as opposed to a simple cost. However, they want to make sure they are getting the best vision possible for their investment, and want to minimize risk and maximize outcome more than they want to find discount prices." Even so, he notes that more people are taking advantage of financing options. "I think they figure if they can have the newest technology now, and not spend a penny more in the long run, why not spread the payments out over two years, and keep a little more on hand for 'what if' type scenarios." There is a lot of confusion about price, as corporate owned LASIK centers try to shift the focus from the best and safest procedure to the cheapest. It is important to realize that LASIK surgery is an investment that will impact your vision for the rest of your life. However, there are ways you can ensure you are getting the best procedure and getting the most for your money.
LASIK UNDER $999: WHAT'S THE CATCH?
Many people considering LASIK are tempted by surgeons and surgery centers that offer the procedure at an unbelievably low price. Unfortunately, it is usually true in life that you get what you pay for. Deals offering LASIK for $299 to $999 per eye are usually a bait-and-switch marketing ploy utilizing older technology. Even these cheaper places seem to realize that other procedures and lasers are better, and will try to talk you into upgrading to a better, yet still older, laser technology at a much higher price. Very few patients ever pay those low advertised prices as they learn their prescription is too high to qualify for the cheaper price. Also, be aware of hidden or add-on charges such as lifetime guarantees (most of these discount centers won't be around long enough), enhancements and, usually unnecessary, tear duct plugs. Be sure to ask questions. If calling on an advertised price, be sure to ask what the full range of prices are, and what the average price is. Ask if the center uses IntraLase(TM). It is currently the safest method for performing LASIK surgery. With only one set of eyes, is any deal worth more risk? Ask what laser or lasers are used for the procedure, and why they use it, how long they have had it (is it older technology), and if they have compared outcomes or have experience with other lasers.
AFFORDABLE PAYMENT PLANS
No-interest finance plans can be another very good way to help get the most from your money. Hoopes Vision currently offers up to 24 month 0% interest financing. This keeps the payments down while not paying more than you would if you brought in all the cash up front. If you are simply looking for the lowest monthly payment, consider financing for a longer period. Hoopes Vision also offers financing up to 60 months. You pay interest, but the payments are much smaller. Be sure to ask about details of financing plans such as minimum payments and interest rates so there are no surprises.
Of course, the bottom line is there are many options out there. The most important considerations are your safety and vision. If you find the place where you feel most comfortable, a little more money may be worth it. Conversely, an inexpensive place may not be worth any price.
USING MEDICAL FLEX SPENDING FUNDS FOR LASIK
Flex Spending Accounts, or FSAs, have become a popular way for individuals and families to help pay for medical expenses, because they allow one to pay for a wide range of health care expenses using pre-tax dollars. This is effectively the same as getting a discount on medical expenses equal to one's tax rate. In other words, if you are in a 25% tax bracket, any medical expenses you pay using your FSA will cost you 25% less out of pocket than you would pay normally. The funds set aside for flex spending must be used before the cutoff date - in many cases it is March 15th, but some companies still use the older Dec. 31st deadline. Check with your human recourses department for your policy.
If your FSA offers a grace period until the 15th of March, you may be able to use unspent funds set aside from the previous year combined with the current year's FSA making the first few months of the year a good time to plan on those out-of-pocket, life-changing medical procedures. Be sure to check with your employer to see how changes will affect your plan before setting aside funding for your FSA.
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