LASIK Cost: A Complete Guide

Last Updated August 19, 2021
LASIK surgery price

Although the LASIK surgery cost is a significant consideration, for people who are interested in laser vision correction, the first step is to find out if a procedure is recommended. This is done through a thorough eye exam and evaluation to determine candidacy for LASIK, SMILE, PRK, or other laser vision correction procedure. If your eye surgeon is recommending a procedure for you, deciding to make the investment in your vision comes with figuring out how to pay for it.

What is the Cost of LASIK Surgery?

At an average of $4,200 for LASIK, for most people paying for LASIK is something to think about, plan for and weigh their options. When it comes to your health and vision it is worth it to make the investment in quality care:

Going through these important steps first will better help you to make a confident decision in what is best for you and your vision. Then, move to figuring out the financial aspects.

What are you spending now?

Think about how much you are spending on your current vision correction. Are you due for new glasses? Maybe looking at some cool new frames? Are you using daily disposable contact lenses? What about your cases and solutions? Do you have fresh supplies?

The point is, maintaining your current vision correction option is costing you. And, over a lifetime of related expenses, paying for glasses and/or contacts over thirty years will be far more expensive than the average LASIK surgery price.

Putting the Cost into Perspective

No question, $4,500 can feel like a lot of money. However, let’s put it into perspective.

In 2008, the LASIK surgery cost was about $4,000, but in today’s dollars, that would be closer to $4,960. However, today LASIK costs about $4,200. That alone is about a 15 percent reduction in price. Plus, today’s average hourly wage has increased 40 percent over the same 10-year period to more than $30.00. In 2008, the average American worker needed to work about 225 hours to afford a LASIK procedure; today that figure is 150 hours – a 30 percent decrease in terms of work time.

However, while the LASIK surgery cost has decreased over time, a tremendous amount of innovation has been developed – making what was a very good procedure even safer and with better visual outcomes with today’s advanced LASIK technologies. These include the latest diagnostic technology that provides valuable information to surgeons to determine eligibility and procedure selection. The data from the diagnostics also helps to guide a customized vision correction procedure for each patient.

Is a deal on LASIK worth it?

Wanting to get a good price on any purchase is natural. However, getting a bargain on a new car is different than choosing an eye procedure based upon the cheapest price. If you are attracted to ads for LASIK at questionable prices – think $99, $199, $299 per eye – you should know those prices come with some pretty big caveats:

  1. You may be charged for the initial consultation
  2. The LASIK surgery cost may not include pre- and post-LASIK visits
  3. Only the smallest and simplest of prescriptions qualify for low-cost procedures.
  4. Low-cost LASIK probably won’t include the most advanced technologies

Most LASIK practices offer free consults. Many offer prices that include follow-up visits and even retreatment procedures (if needed). Typically, only those with a small amount of nearsightedness (think less than -1D) are eligible for ultra-low prices at discount LASIK providers. Most patients wind up paying a lot more to correct their vision prescription.

Today’s modern LASIK laser technologies combine with advanced diagnostic instruments to improve both outcomes and safety and allow surgeons to customize the procedure to each patient, each eye. A highly qualified LASIK surgeon invests in these precise technologies for their patients’ benefit. The most advanced LASIK diagnostic and laser equipment are unlikely to be covered in a $99 price tag.

The best advice? Regardless of who you choose to work with, get a written cost estimate.  It should itemize the costs involved in your procedure and care. Ask about any potential extra fees before committing to scheduling the procedure.  And, of course, read the fine print.

What goes into the cost of laser vision correction?

Part of the work you will do with your eye surgeon will be to determine what specific laser vision correction is recommended for your eyes and vision needs. This is an important process because there are several options in laser vision correction today.

First, most procedures are priced out “per eye.” Each eye is different and may need different treatment to get your best vision correction. Here are a few options your surgeon may recommend for your laser vision correction procedure:

The basic LASIK, or conventional LASIK, procedure.

Conventional LASIK first became available in the U.S. in 1996. This basic LASIK procedure hasn’t changed significantly since that time. It is typically the least expensive option and it may be appropriate for some patients.

However, since the introduction of the conventional LASIK procedure, several advanced technologies have been developed and approved. These advancements have been clinically proven to increase and improve the already high safety and visual results provided in conventional LASIK. Also, the introduction of new laser vision technologies has resulted in more people becoming good candidates.  

SMILE (Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) laser vision correction

The SMILE eye procedure, introduced in the U.S. in 2016, uses a femtosecond laser to create a thin disc of tissue, known as a lenticule, within the layers of the cornea. The contact lens-shaped lenticule is removed through a small incision in the cornea, changing the shape of the cornea to improve the eye’s focusing power.

Custom LASIK (also known as wavefront-guided, wavefront-optimized or topographic LASIK)

This procedure uses highly detailed preoperative diagnostic tools to measure and map the surface of the eye. This data, rather than a basic vision prescription, is what drives the laser vision correction procedure.  It provides a more accurate and precise vision correction treatment customized to the patient’s specific visual and anatomical measurements.

Blade-free or All-laser LASIK

A femtosecond laser replaces the microkeratome to create the corneal flap for the LASIK procedure. The all-laser LASIK procedure has been shown to reduce flap complications and improve visual results.

PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy)

This laser vision correction option uses the same excimer laser technology in LASIK procedures. The laser is applied to the surface of the cornea. Microscopic pieces of tissue are removed from the cornea to improve its shape, resulting in better vision. PRK procedures are often less expensive than LASIK or SMILE. However, PRK has the longest recovery time of the laser vision correction options.

In addition to the specific laser vision correction procedure and technologies, the cost of LASIK eye surgery may include medications to help with recovery and healing, follow up visits and additional treatments if required.

Options for Paying for Laser Vision Correction

First, find a refractive – or laser vision correction – surgeon you are confident in. Have a thorough consultation to evaluate the health of your eyes and vision. From there your surgeon will tell you if you are a good candidate for laser vision correction. While at the consult, it is a good idea to ask a few questions about the cost of the laser vision correction procedure he or she is recommending. Then, explore these options for paying for laser eye surgery:

Do you have a vision insurance plan?

Check with your insurance carrier or benefits manager to find out if you have benefits for laser vision correction. PRO TIP: Check if your surgeon is in your provider network.

Do you have an FSA or HSA?

Look into your employee benefits to see if you have access to Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA) or Health Savings Accounts (HSA). These accounts let you set aside tax-free money for qualified health expenses. PRO TIP: Laser vision correction is a qualified medical expense for FSAs and HSAs.

Are you expecting a bonus?

A recent salary boost, gift of money, or maybe a tax refund (most people get them) are great windfalls to help pay for laser vision correction. PRO TIP: People are setting aside government stimulus checks to help pay for laser eye surgery.

Have you been saving up for a vacation you didn’t get to take during the pandemic?

Maybe think about prioritizing your vision correction in your savings budget. PRO TIP: While your vacation expenses likely aren’t tax-deductible, your laser vision correction procedure might be! Ask your tax preparer if your financial situation qualifies.

Borrow wisely!

Most practices offer very good – even 0% interest – financing options to help you pay for your procedure over time without incurring additional debt. 

PRO TIP: If you have a low-interest credit card that offers an excellent rewards program – like miles for travel – take the time to do the math to figure out which financing option gives you the most bang for your budget.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when it comes to figuring out how to pay for laser eye surgery such as LASIK, SMILE, PRK, or other laser vision correction procedure. Do your own research and learn more about what is available in terms of procedure techniques and technologies. Understanding the spectrum of options is helpful.  However, your refractive surgeon is the expert. Schedule a consultation or two to find the surgeon you feel most comfortable and confident in to help you make the right decision for you and your vision.


Published April 5, 2021