Last week the FTC sent out letters to eye doctors across the country warning them of potential violations of “The Contact Lens Rule.” As soon as I heard about it, I started digging in and found out that there is a similar “Eyeglass Rule.” I had never heard of either of them and it turns out that both impact me.
Your Right to Your Eye Prescription
According to the FTC, your eye doctor is required to provide you with a copy of your prescription for eyeglasses or contacts whether you ask for it or not. He cannot require you to pay anything extra for it or sign any kind of waiver. The doctor must give you a copy of the prescription at the end of your appointment or contact fitting. The prescription should include your name, the date of the exam, when the prescription was issued, when it expires, and the contact information for your doctor. In addition, HIPAA in no way precludes you as the patient getting a copy of the prescription (so don’t let them tell you that).
Why Do You Want Your Prescription?
There are several reasons why you might want that copy of the prescription from your eye doctor:
Lack of Insurance or Bad Insurance
I’m fortunate enough to have great health insurance, which helps me be able to get my contacts directly from my eye doctor and not pay anything out of pocket. It makes sense for me to order my contacts through my eye doctor since they are covered completely. But if I didn’t have insurance like that, I would want the choice of where I am going to order both my contacts and my glasses. In addition, if your insurance is like mine and only covers contacts OR glasses, you might need to shop elsewhere for whatever the insurance doesn’t cover.
Even if you buy one good pair of glasses from your eye doctor, wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup pair in case yours get lost or broken? I do this for my kids every few years and it has been a lifesaver. You don’t want to have to pay eye doctor rates for glasses that you hope that you will never even have to use!
Did you know that there are online stores where you can often get glasses for as low as $7? I was skeptical until I ordered my daughter a pair and she started wearing them more than the ones we got from the optometrist! Here are a few stores that offer a nice sized selection plus frequent deals:
- GlassesUSA: They tend to run a lot of coupons right on their site including up to 50% off on your first pair.
- Coastal: Formerly Coastal Contacts, they now have both glasses and contacts. They usually have a selection of glasses that start at $19 including shipping.
- 39DollarGlasses: Pretty much exactly what it sounds like! Although not $39, they do have some of the lowest prices on prescription sunglasses.
- Discount Glasses: Free shipping and returns are a great start. There Best Sellers are in the $20-30 range. I see a lot of Discount Glasses coupons online, which make the prices even better.
Better Selection Elsewhere
Particularly with eyeglasses, your doctor is only going to have so many pair and at so many price levels. What if you want a specific color or shape that they don’t have? You shouldn’t be stuck having to wear a pair of glasses everyday that you don’t love just because your eye doctor didn’t have what you liked.
Should You Buy from Your Eye Doctor?
In some cases, it does make sense to buy directly from your eye doctor. Mine is great about giving me free samples of different contacts to try, which makes me want to go back to him when it’s time to buy my full year’s worth. His contact prices are competitive with the prices online. Conversely, it doesn’t make sense for me to buy my glasses from him because I only buy a backup pair every few years and I use my insurance allotment on my contacts. You may also want to buy directly from your eye doctor (and pay a little more) on the basis of the great service that you get (which I do!).
Either way, you need to know your rights as a patient. Even if you don’t think you need your prescription at the time of the appointment, you may decide later that you want a pair of reading sunglasses or an extra set of contacts and you shouldn’t have to ask your eye doctor for the prescription to be able to order them. It’s not only fair, it’s the law.