Does Medicare Cover Vision?

by David Bynon, last updated

As people grow older, it’s common for them to suffer from vision-related problems. So, as you’re researching Medicare and its benefits, you may question if Medicare covers vision services. In this article, we’ll explain which vision care services Medicare covers and those which it does not.

Original Medicare Part A and Part B Vision Coverage

Original Medicare Part A and Part B offer vision coverage, but it’s limited. Original Medicare does not cover most routine eye care. However, some Medicare Advantage plans do include vision care, including routine vision services.

Medicare Coverage for Eye Exams

Does Medicare cover eye exams? No, Medicare does not cover eye exams. They will not pay for eye refraction, which is the type of eye exam that you would need to get glasses or contact lenses. But, Medicare does cover costly eye treatments, including cataract surgery (more here).

The cost of eye exams can be covered by either another insurance or the patient out-of-pocket.

Does Medicare Cover Any Eye Services?

In general, Medicare only covers vision services having to do with major medical conditions, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy screening, and macular degeneration tests and treatment.

Glaucoma Screening Test

Medicare Part B covers glaucoma screening. The program only covers the cost once a year and only if you’re at high risk for glaucoma.

You’re considered high risk for glaucoma if you:

  • Have diabetes
  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Are African American and 50+ years old
  • Are Hispanic American and 65+ years old

If you fall into the risk factors above, Medicare may cover glaucoma screening or a glaucoma test as long as it’s performed by an eye doctor or an eye doctor supervising someone who is performing the exam.

If the glaucoma test is performed in a hospital, you will have to pay the copayment.

Diabetic Retinopathy Screening

Medicare Part B covers annual vision exams for people who are at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy screening.

It’s important to know that Medicare Part B will only pay for this screening if:

  • You are enrolled in Part B.
  • You have a diabetes diagnosis.
  • An eye doctor performs the exam.

Macular Degeneration Tests

 Those who may have signs of macular degeneration may receive coverage for the macular degeneration test for diagnosis. Those eligible for the test may need to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount if they have reached the deductible. Just like with diabetic retinopathy screening, if the macular degeneration test is performed in a hospital setting, the patient may need to pay a copay.

Vision Coverage with Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage (Part C) is an alternative to Original Medicare. It’s another way to get your Medicare benefits. Instead of receiving private-fee-for-service coverage from the government-run Medicare program, you receive managed care through a private insurance company.

As with Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans have copays and coinsurance out-of-pocket costs you pay when you use healthcare services.

The benefit of having a Medicare Advantage plan is that many of them offer routine vision exams. While it depends on the private insurance you choose, most will pay for annual exam exams, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and more without being at high risk for major eye conditions.

Knowing whether a Medicare Advantage plan offers the above benefits is important. This is why you should research the insurance providers you’re interested in choosing for your Medicare Advantage plan.

Keep in mind you will need to continue paying for your Medicare Part B premium when you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan. This is in addition to the premium you will need to pay for the Medicare Advantage plan. Since each plan varies in benefits and costs, shop for the plan that falls within your budget and needs.

Find Plans in your area with your ZIP Code

Vision Coverage with Medicare Supplement Insurance

Medigap plans (supplemental insurance) are in lock-step with Original Medicare. So, if Original Medicare won’t cover it, a Medigap plan can’t cover it, either.

Vision Coverage through Medicaid

If you have both Medicare and Medicaid benefits, in most states you can get routine eye exams and other vision benefits through Medicaid, including your preventive care and additional benefits. Curious if you qualify and enrollment procedures? You can learn more about how to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid in this article.

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