5 reasons to get prescription sunglasses (and how your insurance can help pay for them)
Sunglasses are more than just a stylish accessory. They protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and help you see better on bright days. But if you wear glasses, you know it’s not exactly easy to slip on a pair of sunglasses over them.
That’s where prescription sunglasses can help. You can get sunglasses that protect your eyes from the sun and correct your vision. It’s easier (and less expensive) than you might think to make that happen.
You can get prescription sunglasses at most of the same places where you can get regular prescription glasses. And your vision insurance might help you pay for them, too. Here’s how (and why) to do it.
Does vision insurance cover prescription sunglasses?
Yes. “The perception by most patients is that vision insurance is only for regular everyday glasses,” says Rachael Wruble, O.D., an optometrist in Asheville, North Carolina. “But that is not the case.”
Dr. Wruble explains that most vision insurance plans have a frame benefit and a separate lens benefits. Those benefits can help cover the costs of prescription sunglasses in the same way that they cover regular glasses.
You can usually use these benefits only once a year, so you probably can’t get sunglasses and regular glasses covered in the same year. And some plans may cover only contacts or glasses each year, not both. So if you also use your vision plan to purchase contacts, you’ll want to check what your plan covers.
Here’s how your vision insurance might help you pay for prescription sunglasses:
- Frames. Some vision plans offer an allowance for frames once a year or every other year. That means that the insurance company will pay a portion of the cost, and you’ll have to pay any amount over that allowance. If the frames cost less than the allowance amount, you won’t have to pay anything out of pocket.
- Lenses. Most plans will cover prescription lenses once a year or every other year. Typically, you have to pay a copay for lenses instead of getting an allowance to pay for them. You’ll pay a set amount, determined by the insurance company.But there are lots of different kinds of lenses, as well as different coatings you can get on them. Your plan may cover only a certain kind of lens for that copay, and you may have to pay a bit extra for tinted lenses and other sun-protective coatings. Transition lenses that change from regular glasses to sunglasses in the daylight may also be an option. Your optician can tell you what is covered and what you might have to pay.
Getting your prescription sunglasses from an in-network provider is the easiest way to get them covered. Your insurance coverage may be applied automatically, meaning you’d only have to pay any additional costs you might owe out of your own pocket.
If you go to a provider that is not in network, your plan might not cover the cost. And you might have to pay the full cost up front and submit a claim for reimbursement later. So be sure to find out what your plan does and does not cover.
How to pay for prescription sunglasses with a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account
If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through your employer, prescription sunglasses may be an eligible expense. You may also be able to use other savings accounts with tax benefits to pay for certain medical expenses or other qualifying expenses.
If you don’t have vision insurance, or if your vision insurance does not cover prescription sunglasses, you may be able to pay for them with your HSA or FSA funds instead. And if you do have vision insurance, you can potentially use the money from your HSA or FSA account to pay for any additional out-of-pocket expenses you owe after insurance.
Check your account details to make sure prescription sunglasses are an eligible expense and to determine how to use your funds to pay for them. And don’t forget to keep your receipts. You’ll want to keep receipts for all expenses paid with your HSA or FSA, so you have a record of what you used them to pay for.
Benefits of wearing prescription sunglasses
With a pair of prescription sunglasses, you’ll be able to protect your eyes from the sun while still maintaining the crisp and clear vision that your glasses give you. Here are 5 benefits of wearing prescription sunglasses:
Sunglasses benefit #1: They protect against UV light
Your sunglasses can help protect your eyes against UV light, which is potentially harmful radiation that comes from the sun. You’ve maybe heard of the damage UV light can do to your skin (it can cause skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots). UV light can also damage the inside and outside of your eyes.
“We wear sunblock to protect our skin from UV rays, but what about our eyes?” asks Dr. Wruble. “Prescription sunglasses can block 100% of the sun’s UV rays, protecting your eyes from UV damage that leads to macular degeneration, cataracts, and even cancer.” (Macular degeneration can cause blurry vision in older adults; cataracts cause cloudiness in your field of vision.) They also protect the skin around your eyes, which can help prevent wrinkles and premature aging.
Sunglasses benefit #2: They shade your eyes
In addition to protecting against harmful UV rays, sunglasses provide much-needed shade from the bright sun. “Without sunglasses, we may squint to see due to the bright sunlight,” says Dr. Wruble. “Prescription sunglasses are custom-made for the patient and can provide clear vision outside and decrease the risk of wrinkles from squinting.” That may help with headaches, too.
Sunglasses benefit #3: They reduce glare
Prescription sunglasses are often polarized. That means they have a special coating on their lenses that reduces glare from the sun and filters out other light sources. “Polarized prescription lenses can help decrease glare that occurs not only in the summer but also from the snow in the winter,” says Dr. Wruble.
Sunglasses benefit #4: They offer convenience
You’ve likely seen people put on sunglasses over their regular glasses. It’s not super stylish, and isn’t the most comfortable or safe option. “It’s difficult and uncomfortable to wear a pair of sunglasses over another pair of glasses,” says Dr. Wruble. “Having prescription sunglasses offers a convenient way of not only protecting your eyes but also only wearing 1 pair of glasses outside to see.”
Wearing sunglasses on their own is also safer. They’ll fit more snugly over your eyes and brow to better block UV rays, adds Dr. Wruble.
Sunglasses benefit #5: They help ensure safety when driving
Sometimes keeping your eyes on the road means keeping them in the sun, too. Sunglasses are essential, making it easier to see what’s on the road in front of you on sunny days. But if you ditch your prescription glasses for nonprescription sunglasses while driving, you’re swapping one hazard (bright light) for another (blurry vision).
Prescription sunglasses can help block the sunlight and other glare while you’re driving and keep that clear vision that your prescription lenses give you.