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Is LASIK Laser Eye Surgery Worth It?

Posted By Jim On 07/25/2011 @ 7:31 am In Personal Finance | 33 Comments

Nearly five years ago, I considered Lasik eye surgery [3] but I never pulled the trigger. It wasn’t that I was afraid or concerned, I was just used to contact lenses, they didn’t bother me, and I felt like I didn’t need to fix something that wasn’t broken.

Fast forward to this year and my contacts are becoming less and less comfortable. On several occasions my eyes have been really bothered by them to the point I keep them out most of the day when I’m working from home. The only times I put them in are when I play sports and when we go out, it’s just more convenient.

The most common concern when it comes to Lasik is the price. It’s a several thousand dollar procedure and, as is the case with anything like that, not something you decide on without some deliberation. Fortunately, after a quick analysis, it’s actually not as expensive as you might thing.

Cost Benefit Analysis

Let’s say the typical Lasik procedure costs around $4500 – that includes all expenses related to the procedure and recovery. $4500 sounds like a lot but when you compare it with the cost of glasses and contacts for the rest of your life, it’s actually pretty cheap.

Note: I’m going to exclude the use of an FSA for the purposes of this analysis because you can use an FSA on both the Lasic procedure and for glasses and contacts. I figure it’s pretty much even for our purposes.

Cost of Contact Lenses: I’m 30 years old and if I weren’t to do Lasik, I’d probably wear contacts for at least another twenty years. I currently use the Air Optix Night & Day Aqua, which goes for $70 a box retail. One box contains a six month supply of contacts, so a full year’s supply is going to cost $280 a year. You can probably find it for cheaper, around $50 a box, so the actual price is closer to around $200 a year.

Vision Insurance: I believe typical vision insurance through an employer is around $12-15 a month for one person, which is balanced out by a $120 contact lens or glasses benefit. In other words, you pay for the insurance and “make it back” on contacts or glasses. The regular checkups are essentially free. That drops the actual cost of contacts to around $80 a year after insurance.

Glasses: Glasses are a little trickier to calculate because most people don’t get new glasses each year. Let’s say you get a new pair every three years, which is conservative enough an estimate, and those new glasses cost you $150. Over twenty years, that’s around seven pairs of glasses. That’s $1050 in glasses, assuming you don’t need replacements anytime soon.

Contact Lens Solution & Supplies: I used to use Opti-Free Replenish Solution, $15 for two 10 oz bottles. I’d conservatively use one bottle a month, so you’d need around $90 in solution each year. Now, I actually use Clear Care – No Rub Cleaning & Disinfecting Solution ($16) and then rinse with Bausch & Lomb’s Sensitive Eyes Plus Saline ($5). It adds maybe another $20 (for the saline) to the annual budget. $110 for contact lens solution each year.

To recap:

  • Contact lenses: $80 a year
  • Contact lens solution: $110 a year
  • Glasses: $150 every three years

For simplicity, ignore the time value of money and let’s just sum up the total cost for contacts over 20 years – $4850.

Ok, let’s not ignore simplicity and factor in the time value of money with an interest rate of 3%. 20 equal payments of $242.50 (that’s $4850 divided by 20) has a present day value of $3607.78. In essence, if you were to do Lasik for $4500, it really only “costs” you $892.21 – less than $500 an eye.

I’m getting the procedure on Thursday.

(Photo: neurotic_camel [4])


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