LASIK: Corrective or Cosmetic?
Submitted by Dr. Dean Dornic on Fri 06/26/2009 - 09:41
Not a week goes by that a patient doesn’t ask me if LASIK vision correction is covered by their medical insurance. Medical plans that pay for refractive surgery are the exception to the rule and there are several plans such as Blue Cross & Blue Shield and VSP that offer significant savings to their participants but all too often, patients bear the entire cost of the procedure. That is because the insurance industry has taken the stance that LASIK is cosmetic. The truth, however, is that while many patients may look better out of their glasses, the real benefit is that they function better.
Refractive Errors are a Defect
It is an enigma to me how our myopic ancestors functioned or even survived before the correction of refractive errors were possible. Nearsighted individuals clearly were at a competitive disadvantage. I would not want to be a poorly seeing mid-evil warrior!
Marco Polo brought the concept of eyeglasses back to Europe from the Orient. But eyeglasses and contact lenses are prosthetic devices just as are hearing aids and ankle braces. For many years, man has strived to permanently correct their vision with drugs, eye exercises or surgery. As it turns out, surgery has proven to be the only, permanently successful solution. Over the past 50 years strives have been made to make vision correction more precise and safer. The fact that a much higher percentage of ophthalmologists have had LASIK than the general population is testament to the perceived success of these goals.
Drew Carey had LASIK
Scores of professional athletes including football players, baseball players and members of the National Basketball Association have had LASIK. Over 80 professional golfers have had LASIK; Tiger Woods being the most well known. Many athletes feel that being free of glasses or contact lenses improves their game and are not having the procedure performed to improve their appearance. The U.S. Military has seen the advantage of laser vision correction and now provides it for many of their enlisted personnel. Likewise, many active patients find glasses or contact lenses impractical for many activities of daily living.
A growing number of models and entertainers have had LASIK. This might, at first glance, support the concept that laser eye surgery is cosmetic. Obviously appearance is important in this line of work. But if LASIK was being performed as a cosmetic procedure, how do you explain the fact that Drew Carey and Elton John do not really need their trademark eyeglasses; both having had LASIK sometime back? Clearly they feel that reducing dependence on glasses has benefits other than changing the way they look.
Not Just for the Rich and Famous
In recent years, the cost of traditional LASIK has come down. But the educated consumer should not just search out the lowest price. Doing so means that that the individual may not be benefiting from the improved success rates and safety of such advances as wider treatment zones, smoother treatment surfaces, pupil trackers and wavefront technology. Be sure that you are dealing with an experienced refractive surgeon who makes use of the latest technological advances, that the laser room is environmentally controlled and that strict infection prevention controls are in place.
Don’t despair if your medical insurance does not cover your laser eye surgery. Flexible medical spending accounts and insurance discounts offer real savings. Low or no-interest financing options can help fit LASIK vision correction into most people’s budget. Vision correction is a recognized income tax deduction. Many patients who have had their vision corrected feel that it was one of the best investments they have ever made. More patients are candidates for vision correction today and success rates are higher than ever. LASIK eye surgery is not just cosmetic and there has never been a better time to have your vision corrected than right now.
Patients in the Raleigh NC area can take advantage of our complimentary LASIK consults to discuss whether LASIK is right for you.