Are annual eye exams covered by Medicare?

While original Medicare does not cover eye exams, you can get coverage under Medicare Advantage.

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UPDATED: Jun 23, 2022

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Written By: Chris TepedinoReviewed By: Laura WalkerUPDATED: Jun 23, 2022Fact Checked

The Rundown

  • Original Medicare covers eye health but not vision
  • Medicare Advantage covers vision and annual eye exams
  • There is a large selection of Medicare Advantage plans with different coverage, rates, deductibles, and co-pays

Medicare can be confusing to understand because it contains various subtypes, all of which cover different conditions and preventative care. This article makes understanding and comparing Medicare plans a simple process.

In this article, you’ll learn the difference between a few Medicare plans and what they do and don’t cover about eye health and vision care related to prescription eyeglasses or contacts. These are similar but not quite the same thing. You’ll also learn what Medicare Advantage insurance is and how to choose a plan.

Does Medicare cover eye exams?

Original Medicare generally does not cover routine eye care. However, while Medicare Part B doesn’t cover eye exams pertaining to preventative annual vision care, it covers certain eye health conditions. This includes exams for medical circumstances such as the following:

  • If you have a family history of glaucoma, meet the age requirements for a glaucoma exam, or have diabetes, Medicare may cover exams related to this condition.
  • Both exams and surgery pertaining to cataracts are covered under original Medicare. Glasses might be covered too if you’ve had surgery.
  • If your eyes are injured, an examination of the damage is covered.
  • If you have diabetes and your doctor agrees you need annual exams for diabetic retinopathy, original Medicare covers it.
  • Original Medicare pays for care related to macular degeneration, including exams and injections.

You can expect Medicare Part B to cover 80% of the costs of exams and treatment as long as the provider accepts Medicare as insurance. A condition must be deemed medically necessary for Medicare to cover treatment. It also often covers necessary surgery to correct a condition that may require it.

What about annual check-ups and prescriptions?

If outside the scope of the aforementioned conditions, Medicare Part B is not likely to cover annual check-ups. This means that vision care that involves prescription eyeglasses or contacts isn’t covered. The exception is if the vision loss is related to surgery, in which case one pair of eyeglasses or contacts may be covered under Medicare Part B.

Prescriptions are not covered under original Medicare unless you’re a part of a separate prescription drug plan. However, most Medicare Advantage plans come with Medicare Part D coverage.

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Does any Medicare plan cover annual vision check-ups?

Medicare Advantage, sometimes called Medicare Part C, is a form of add-on private insurance that is likely to cover routine annual eye exams specifically about prescription eyewear meant to correct vision. The glasses or contacts might also be covered, and the plan may include drug coverage.

There are many other benefits Medicare Advantage has that other forms of Medicare don’t. Routine hearing care is often covered, for example. Dental care coverage is usually an option. You might also have access to wellness programs and discounted gym memberships. Nutrition and fitness are vital components of a healthy lifestyle, and it’s never too late to take a closer look at nutrition and fitness.

Do all Medicare Advantage programs have these benefits?

No. Medicare Advantage programs vary in coverage, benefits, and availability. Some Medicare Advantage plans have provider networks that require you to visit one of their preferred providers for coverage, and some plans might not cover the cost completely but instead reimburse you for most of it.

Medicare Advantage is an add-on private option to Medicare Part B. This means that you must still pay your Medicare Part B rates on top of whatever you’re paying for Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage plans can be one of many types of insurance, including HMOs.

How much does Medicare Advantage cost?

Similar to other kinds of insurance, Medicare Advantage plans vary in monthly rates, co-pays, deductibles, and other fees. For some Medicare Advantage plans, there is a $0 added monthly rate to your Part B monthly rate, and others have higher rates. Generally, the lower the monthly rate, the higher your deductibles and co-pays will be, and vice versa.

Medicare Advantage plans also differ in other ways, such as out-of-pocket limits, sizes of provider networks, and prescription drug coverage.

There are differences in overall quality and service, as well. A Medicare Advantage company with a bad reputation may make your life difficult in ways that go beyond what they cover or what their rates are.

As mentioned previously, most Medicare Advantage plans come with Part D prescription insurance, but if you choose to get Part D coverage that’s separate from a Medicare Advantage plan, it will typically cost you between $0 and $77.10 per month based on your income.

How do I join a Medicare Advantage plan?

You must have Medicare Part A and Part B before you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Some Medicare Advantage companies allow you to apply online, whereas others require you to submit a paper form. Even if you can’t apply for a plan online, all plans are required to give you the option of a paper form.

If you do not sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan in your initial enrollment period (the three months before the month you turn 65 or the three months afterward), you can sign up during a special enrollment period or fall open enrollment period.

Be wary of being solicited for a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage companies never call you without you first specifically asking to be called. Additionally, they never ask for financial information over the phone. If you receive an unsolicited call or home visit offering a Medicare Advantage plan, it is a scam that you can report to 1-800-MEDICARE.

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Final Thoughts on Medicare and Eye Exams

Medicare Part B covers many health conditions and treatments that are unrelated to prescription eyewear. For that kind of coverage, you might be able to do better with a Medicare Advantage plan. However, not all Medicare Advantage plans offer the same coverage, rates, and co-pays, and you need to compare these to find out which might suit you best.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by insurance experts.

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Insurance Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

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