A decline in the quality of your vision is one of the predictable, and often frustrating, elements of aging. For some, it’s just the loss of close reading vision. For others, it’s a worsening of near-sightedness. Given that vision problems are increasingly common for those over 40, Medicare recipients probably wonder if they can count of Medicare benefits to foot the bill for eyeglasses.
Why Does Vision Deteriorate as You Age?
The most common vision problem you’ll suffer as you age is losing the ability to focus on close up objects or text. This is a condition known as presbyopia. It usually starts to kick in around the age of 40. This happens because the lens inside your eye thickens over time, which reduces its elasticity. That elasticity is what lets you focus your vision.
Another very common condition people encounter as they age is cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding over of the lens in the eye. This clouding of the lens leads to a clouding over of your vision more generally. Think of trying to peer through a fogged-over window. This happens because proteins start clumping in the lens. Surgery can usually correct cataracts.
You may experience less common or more serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or macular degeneration. Statistically, though, presbyopia and cataracts are the things most likely to affect your vision as you age.
Up until presbyopia sets in, most glasses have a single prescription for the entire lens. The lens generally corrects for near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and possibly astigmatism. For those with otherwise good vision, presbyopia typically means you need reading glasses that let you focus on close objects. If you already use corrective lenses, it gets a little more complex. You may end up needing bifocals so you can read or see close up objects and still get correction for near- or far-sightedness. Another option is progressive lenses.
Medicare Benefits and Eyeglasses
In most cases, Medicare provides no coverage for eyeglasses. The one time that Medicare will cover glasses is if you receive cataract surgery with an intraocular lens implantation. Medicare Part B does offer some qualified coverage in that specific circumstance. Typically, it includes coverage for one pair of glasses.
If you get glasses after the cataract surgery with lens implantation, Medicare applies standard Part B billing policy. You’re responsible for the full cost up to your deductible. After that, Medicare covers 80% of the price and you cover the other 20%. Many Medicare recipients choose to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are required to provide at least the same Part A and Part B benefits as Original Medicare, but many plans include additional coverage, like vision care. If you do not have any vision care and need regular glasses, you’ll pay the full price for them. You can also get private vision insurance that will help offset the costs of vision care.