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Lasik – Cost Benefit Analysis

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I thought about laser eye surgery, or Lasik as the cool kids call it, many years ago when it first became available. We didn’t have the money to consider it (still probably don’t) and I always considered it a spurious expense for the rich (it was significantly more expensive back then). But since then the technology has improved, the costs have come down, and I have a full-time job. The downside is that I also have a full-time mortgage payment regardless of how good my vision is. I currently wear contacts and it costs me about $120 for contacts (2 week Acuvue 2′s), about another $50ish for an eye exam, and $150 for a pair of glasses every two or three years (as I invariable step on old ones, scratch them, or otherwise inadvertently abuse them) – but through work I have a vision plan where I pay about $3-$4 a month and get a huge chunk of my costs knocked off my bill. So… is Lasik worth it?

According to AllAboutVision.com, the procedure has been increasing in cost due to better technology and more options but will probably run around $2,000 per eye.

I pay approximately $4 per month ($48/yr) for eye coverage and then an additional $120 a year for contacts (they cost more but my insurance covers the remainder). That’s still only a yearly outlay of $170 – so it would take nearly 24 years until the breakeven point, from a cost perspective. Let’s say I threw in new glasses every two years, or $75 a year, that’s $245 a year (that’s a lot!) for a breakeven point of 16.3 years! I suppose the benefit of not having to wear glasses or contacts covers the difference for most people otherwise it wouldn’t be as popular as it is.

Is my math wrong or is Lasik so much better than just slapping in contacts in the morning? I know money isn’t everything, quality of life is, so I do understand the decision to undergo the procedure but the difference was a lot larger than I anticipated.

{ 15 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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15 Responses to “Lasik – Cost Benefit Analysis”

  1. Josh says:

    If you truly have bad vision and cannot function without your glasses/contacts, Lasik is worth it. This was my experience, and I can say it will easily pay for itself in qualtiy of life. That is after all, what the point of all of this is . . .

  2. Here ya go…

    Surgicaleyes.org

    Ten Reasons.pdf [dead link]

    Lasikinfocenter.net [dead link]

    As long as there are opthamologists wearing glasses, I am too.

    Edited by jim (9/19): I modified the link titles only (cleared dead links).

  3. You should REALLY read some of the forums that group together people who’ve done this and gotten really messed up eyes. I was about to fill out my FSA form last year when I read them, and promptly realized my eyes are just ok. And I have really bad eyesite. Let me try to find them again…

  4. Kay says:

    I had lasik surgery 4 years ago. Before that, I had worn glasses for 16 years and contact lenses for 10 years. I personally think the surgery is worth every penny for the improvement in the quality of life. No more packing tons of contact lenses stuff for traveling, no accidental popping out of the lenses in the middle of the street, you can wear any sunglasses you want, you can wake up in the middle of the night and not have to look for glasses to go to the bathroom. But in my case, the clincher was that the lenses would tire my eyes out and they would get red and watery at the end of the day. Obviously that’s not very healthy for your eyes. But if you’re 100% comfortable with lenses and glasses, I guess you could wait a bit.

  5. jim says:

    Thanks for the resources Jonathan, it’s some scary stuff when you start messing with lasers and the human eye… that’s part of the reason why I hadn’t seriously considered it before. I did the same thinking, though not as much research, when I was filling out my FSA information too.

  6. Ben says:

    Why don’t you check out Night and Day lenses — works great if you’re a working professional. You keep ‘em in your eyes for 24 hours (yes, you sleep in them!) and only change them once a month. Works well, but still pretty expensive at about $40/box for a 6 month supply.

  7. jim says:

    Well right now I don’t see contact lenses as an inconvenience, I sometimes like not being able to see (I have degraded hearing in one ear too, I kinda like that when I sleep) because it means my mind processes less. For example, I groggily wake up in the night to use the restroom, let’s say my sharp as nails mind sees a magazine I was meaning to read… bam, with 20/20 I get suckered in, but with my 20/238490723984 vision I can use the potty and get in bed. :)

  8. Miller says:

    Jimmy, I would also consider that eye insurance isn’t just for contacts and glasses, but also for HEALTH of your eyes. I am not positve about this, but I would think you would still need an occasional check up for all the eye diseases that try to scare the crap out of you with. Eye insurance covers those exams (and dialates pupils, etc). So, in your financial cost/benefit, maybe you shouldn’t crop out the $48 a year for insurance. That is a significant portion of your total yearly cost, and will move that break point that much farther out…

  9. Tool Man says:

    My eye doctor that I’ve had since I was a kid, i am now 26, recently told me that he supported lasik. His own daughter had the surgery so you know he felt comfortable with it. It only takes 15mins or so per eye. My mom had it done by the same guy who did Tiger Woods’s eyes. She liked the results but over time she had to go back and get additional surgeries because her eyes were very bad and regressed. I would say her results were marginal, though one of my best friends had it done and he loved it.

    I will whole heartedly agree that the health of your eyes is very important. Contacts do cause the eye to tire since air and moisture is restricted from reaching the eye. It is not good to leave contacts in for extended amounts of time regularly, your eye health over time while suffer.

    The cost is a factor for me, and also the marginal to so so results I’ve seen with my mom is a factor. But in a couple years I will get it done…quality of life is key!!!

  10. Andy says:

    If you plan on having this done, plan on contributing the max amount to your flexible spending account, then drop it all on the surgery, its a great use for it.

  11. Prosperette says:

    I got nauseous just by watching the animated QuickTime videos of the procedure. As if that wasn’t enough, two of two friends had to go back for some kind of follow up: Scraping the flap for a second time. Before reading this post and following all the links, I was 75% ready to contribute to my FSA and go under the knife in 2006. Screw that. I went to Costco for my $75 eye exam and 1800contacts for my lenses ($32).

  12. Pyewacketcat says:

    I agree with Prosperette, I’m not sure I want to take the chance with my eyes, I do wear contacts, and recently,have had to go to reading glasses too. I found out last Oct. that I have cataracts,and he said the eye surgery is the same as with Lasik. But , I gotta ask, do I take the chance of being blinded, or live with this for as long as I can and wait it out,to see if anything new and safer comes up?
    The thought is scary as all get out to me, I wish I could get some clear straight answers, not from people that are making money off of it either.

  13. King Asa says:

    hahah… look at this
    lasikathome.com
    that is insane

  14. Chad says:

    I found this while looking for coupons to LasikPlus. I’ve had a few friends who have had it, and my contacts are $300/yr and toss in glasses ever 2yrs at $150. Toss in a $50 eye-doctor visit but knock down off $200 covered on the contacts that’s $225/yr but wait, don’t forget the solution $30/yr for the regular and another $10 in travel bottles, and add another $10 in re-wetting drops and that’s $275/yr.

    Also, it seems like it’s closer to $1400/eye today even w/ Astigmatism -> $2800. Which puts one at a 10yr payoff. And with insurance going to pot (15yrs ago my insurance covered contacts, glass and exam and my out of pocket was about $50/yr)

    Anyway, I tend to have one or two come off during the course of a year while rollerblading/biking/swimming. I hate having to put them on in the morning. There’s a major PIA when traveling (usual take them off and put glasses on during long haul flights to Europe or Asia which I do 2-3 times a year for work)

    And while I agree it’s a luxury, it does have a financial payoff point, whether it’s 10yrs or 16yrs. I plan on having it done after my current work project is complete next month.

  15. Cedarburger says:

    I have basic Vision insurance and it still costs me $600/every other year for glasses. My wife wears glassses ,too, and will never consider Lasik. So that’s $300/year every other year for her glasses. I also wear contacts which cost approx. $250/year. Plus solutions and rewetting for approx.

    So ($600/2)+$250+$125=$625/yr

    Lasik (both eyes): $4,500*. One time.

    $4,500/$625= 7.2 year payback

    *Does not include any maintenance procedures

    Seems reasonable to me.


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