Insurance

What is EyeMed?

An optometrist is absolutely a doctor. The letters after an optometrist’s name “OD” mean “doctor of optometry.”

Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

By Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

February 23, 2022

What is EyeMed?

In today’s blog post I will talk about EyeMed U.S. Laser Network and eye insurance. We all want insurance with the thought that perhaps it will be a great value-that we will get something for nothing, but that is not the case. The EyeMed company is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Italian corporation Luxottica. EyeMed has just one “Laser/lasik/PRK“ company on their website listed as providers. Although it appears that the “US laser network” has many providers, all roads lead to the same company: LasikPlus, which owns TLC and lasik vision Institute.

Who is EyeMed?

The EyeMed website says that they have 36 million members. This number has not changed in a very long time, so one would assume either that they’re very stable, or they just don’t update the numbers. The members are from companies around the United States that pay EyeMed a monthly premium. For glasses and contact lenses you are directed to the companies that are owned by Luxottica: LensCrafters, Target optical, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, EyeMed vision care plan, Apex by Sunglass Hut, and glasses.com. In short, they own nearly all retail eye care providers except those owned by Walmart and Costco. They also own the license to produce and market all the top luxury eyewear brands such as Armani, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Michael Kors, Prada, Persol, Oliver Peoples, Valentino, Vogue, and Versace, (they’re doing pretty well just in the letter “V” brands!). If you can name a luxury brand that makes glasses, Luxottica most likely owns it.

EyeMed Providers. What is My EyeMed LASIK Benefit?

In this blog post, I will focus more on the EyeMed LASIK benefit. If you go on the LASIK benefit for EyeMed page, all roads lead to the same phone number which directs you to the LasikPlus call center. They will direct you to one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. LasikPlus, a privately held company, bought a failing company called “Vision Group Holdings” a few years ago and now owns all the LasikPlus centers, TLC (which originally stood for The Laser Center) and LVI (Lasik Vision Institute). LasikPlus has less than half of the total market share of the LASIK market, but more than any other individual provider by far, and uses that advantage to be exclusively listed on the EyeMed website.

EyeMed Contact Us

When you contact one of the “providers“ for the “US laser network“ your call or correspondence goes directly to the LasikPlus call center. This is the only option offered. You cannot directly contact anyone else in the United States. LasikPlus apparently has an exclusive agreement with EyeMed to market to the 36 million members. My point is that the 36 million EyeMed members should know that they have other options and that the out-of-pocket cost will be the SAME whether or not they go to LasikPlus through their EyeMed LASIK benefit or not. When you go to LasikPlus, they show you the price for LASIK only after your exam. So there is no way to know if you are truly getting a discount or if they are just raising the price to cover the “discount.” Don’t ever pay this higher price, because they will reduce it. At SharpeVision, we don’t play shell games and have our price clearly listed on our website on our pricing page. And we price match!

Buy EyeMed Vision Insurance or VSP Eye Insurance

Most of the time, the premium that is charged by EyeMed offers very little or nothing, but they make it seem like you’re getting an awesome discount. And your employer may be paying the premium, so who cares, right? As I have stated above, the pricing at LasikPlus and its subsidiaries will be the same whether you have EyeMed or not. The only reason they are listed on the EyeMed website is that it gives them access to many members. The members search for their “LASIK benefit” and see the “US LASER Network” and click there. Many do no further research, and go straight to a LasikPlus center. I do not know how much, or if, LasikPlus pays EyeMed for this exclusivity, but it would make sense that LasikPlus does pay EyeMed for this exclusive access to 36 million members. For EyeMed, it looks as though there is a benefit when there actually is none. In reality, LasikPlus just offers a “discount“ that is also actually not a discount-it’s the same price after their “$1000 off.” It’s similar to something at Kohl’s department store that constantly lists “35 to 45% off“ when no one would actually pay full price. This tactic does work however. Remember back to JCPenney when they advertised their low every day prices, with no claim to “45% Off!”? It pretty much killed them. I just went to check out the JCPenney website- just to see if they are still in business- and saw for Valentine’s Day they are offering “up to 70% off.“ See! Offering discounts does seem to work psychologically, but in reality there is no value gained.

EyeMed Perks

EyeMed directs you, of course, to retailers that they own. VSP is EyeMed’s biggest competitor and will direct you to brands that they own. Luxottica owns all the high end glasses brands I listed above. The EyeMed discount makes an $800 pair of glasses just $600 after a discount. Luxottica wins! They collect the $600 for an extremely high markup and continue to collect your premiums of up to several hundred dollars per year. On 36 million members. If it were just $100/year, this is $3.6 billion annually for controlling the “Eye Insurance” market and selling you only their products. Pretty nice. This makes it very appealing if you want the most fashionable, trendy and of course most expensive brands. VSP is generally the discount brands of retailers. Luxottica has been very smart at protecting their brands and buying up all the brands that are popular and fashionable. They have been accused of cutthroat tactics such as when they took over Oakley.

Where can I use EyeMed? You can use plans such as VSP at a Luxottica controlled brand such as target optical, but you may not get as good of benefits. EyeMed likes to keep its members in their network and exclude others.

Who is in EyeMed Network?

As I listed above, it’s all of the exotic owned brands such as LensCrafters, Target Optical, Sears Optical and Pearle Vision among others. They also own Eyeglass Hut, which is an outlet for all the luxury Luxottica brands. It’s a very smart business tactic and has been called a monopoly by others.

Who is NOT Owned by EyeMed Luxottica?

Several big chains are not owned by Luxottica. Walmart and Costco both have their own independent eye care providers, are not owned by Luxottica, and therefore considered out-of-network if you have EyeMed insurance. Warby Parker has recently emerged as a stylish and trendy brand that is currently not owned by Luxottica. They went public in the last year and although their stock has dropped precipitously as of this writing, so has the stock market as a whole. They do not have the buying power breadth to start their own eye insurance plan as of yet.

Why do We Have Insurance?

Insurance was originally designed to protect you, the consumer, from large financial losses. It has been manipulated over the years and currently is currently designed to benefit large companies such as hospitals, big Pharma and other ancillary healthcare companies such as Luxottica, or large pharmacy chains that use their power to create monopolies and access to consumers, while providing large profits for them both on the product side and the “insurance“ side. The premiums are just gravy-and considerable gravy! The products are marked up hundreds, if not thousands, of times the production costs. (Ever wonder why Humira costs $5243 for 80mg?) it’s about 600,000 times more valuable than gold! Really? Yes.

They direct you only to their products of course. The internet has helped people discover alternative providers of products and services, but large corporations have the money to drown out competition when they need too. (Don’t forget about PAID search optimization on the web.)  And the need to drown out competition has decreased as competition has been snuffed out wholesale. Our individual choices nearly invisibly seem to be declining at an accelerating rate.

My Point

My point is that the exclusive arrangement between EyeMed and LasikPlus does not allow other providers to have access to the 36 million members. The LasikPlus experience for the patient is mediocre at best. There are hundreds of other independent Eye care providers that are surgeon owned practices who provide a more personalized service. They offer procedures that may be better suited to you such as an ICL (Implantable contact lens), SMILE (small incision lenticular extraction), RLE (Refractive lens exchange), or IOL (cataract surgery). Part of my duty as a physician is to explain all the risks, benefits, and alternatives of any procedure, and if you only offer one procedure, you are more likely to recommend that procedure even if it is not the best one for any given patient. To look at the providers in your area who have dedicated their lives to vision correction surgery, I recommend looking at the Dr. finder on the refractive surgery alliance website.

The Refractive Surgery Alliance

The Refractive Surgery Alliance  is an organization of several hundred eye surgeons around the world. The Refractive Surgery Alliance is self-supported though members’ dues and does not take Industry money. It is the only one of its kind whose members are passionately dedicated to providing the best possible vision correction surgery for their patients. There is no other agenda. I have no financial conflicts nor motivation to promote the refractive surgery alliance. I am a dues paying member of the Refractive Surgery Alliance and have benefited professionally from membership in many ways. I learn daily from colleagues around the world via an email forum for challenging cases, and opinions on patient care. The Refractive Surgery Alliance conducts educational events throughout the year and throughout the world. We visit members’ practices all over the world in South America, Seoul Korea, and in the United States to see what can be done to improve patient care, outcomes, and patient experience. We review journals, discuss new products, and ask each other where we might find the best possible care in any given geographical location if a patient moves or is on vacation and needs care. It has been a wonderful professional experience.

If you have your evaluation at any of the refractive surgery alliance members practices, I’m confident you will have one of the better experiences as compared to LasikPlus. At SharpeVision MODERN LASIK, we perform a comprehensive free examination to determine if you are a candidate for any of the refractive surgery procedures we offer. I am passionately dedicated to helping you live your life seeing clearly without the burden of glasses or contact lenses. I have been a beneficiary of it (I had -8 glasses up until age 32) and love helping our patients and changing their lives for the better. It is my privilege and honor to serve you.

Dr. Matthew Sharpe- Founder of SharpeVision

Dr. Matthew R. Sharpe

Dr. Matthew Sharpe is an Ophthalmologist specializing in refractive surgery and the owner SharpeVision MODERN LASIK, with offices in Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. Dr. Sharpe is a world traveler, pianist, marathon runner, motorcyclist, and fluent French speaker. He enjoys every second of life, but finds he is happiest at home watching Netflix or cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes with his wife, three children, and two dogs.
Signature of Dr. Matthew Sharpe, MD