By: Revanche

LASIK: our unplanned expense

April 12, 2017

PiC’s eyes have been getting a little bit worse with every year.

It wasn’t that scary until we added up exactly how much vision he’s lost over the years. Then the thing that became apparent to us in all our emergency planning is that his eyeballs are a huge liability. Without his contacts, he’s effectively blind. He can make out the blob that is me, the blob that is Seamus, the streak that is JuggerBaby coming for his legs, if we’re within 2 feet of him, but he can’t do a darn thing about it.

Worse, a panicked or attempting-to-escape JuggerBaby flails wildly, dangerously. We know this because ze has already knocked his contacts out several times, leaving him half-blind.

On a less fraught daily basis, his day is much more frustrating when he has to stop and put in his contacts before he can do anything.

After getting some background info from Crystal, whose husband had it done, about the pricing and a few other friends who have had it done recently, we decided he should have a consultation with the recommended eye docs in our area to see if he’s a candidate. I wasn’t sure if he could do the classic procedure, or if he had to go with PRK, but I hoped he was a candidate for the standard procedure that’s been done many thousands of times.

The consultation was good. They were confident that they could improve his eyesight substantially and the results had a good prognosis for stability because of his age and gender. The one time being older pays off!

Now, to be clear, this is just about the worst timing possible for this on a financial basis considering the house thing. But we had committed to it before the house thing happened and JuggerBaby isn’t getting more coordinated. You’d think ze would be but ze is my kid so that’s not happening. He’s taken several more hits to the eyes since starting this post! It’s dangerous being a parent.

The quote for the LASIK procedure was $9250.

An additional benefit through his employer, the Vision Service Plan, netted us a 20% discount, taking that down to $7560. The referral from his regular eye doctor took another $300 off the bill, bringing that down to $7100.

They required a $1000 deposit before they’d book another appointment, so I jumped on the case.  I called them for a cash discount – boom, $300 off, bringing it to $6800.

And because I don’t stop until we run out of options, I asked if we could leave the $1000 on our credit card and pay off the balance in cash, which gets us a tiny 1% cash back ($10.00). They normally make you bring in the full cash amount and refund your card, but heck, why not ask?

That, my friends, totaled up our discounts to 27% off the huge original cost.

The timing is / was terrible of course.  We had some flexibility with our FSA but really, this wasn’t the right time to be paying so much more for essentially an elective procedure.

In many ways, this decision was more emotional than logical: for the first time, PiC felt vulnerable in a way he’d not felt before. As the consummate worrier and planner, I worried about an earthquake or fire or other emergency happening at night where you only have seconds to vacate, and certainly not enough time to stop to put in contacts! It was less worrisome when it was just the two of us plus dog. Seamus has pretty great vision.

On the logical side of the decision, we were looking at spending hundreds of dollars to replace his contacts thanks to the aforementioned knocking out incident and his glasses were woefully out of date as well. They both needed updating at the same time which usually costs near a thousand dollars when appointments and orders are said and done. I’ve never liked him being dependent on only one set of vision aid because it’s so easy to find yourself up Can’t See Creek and that’s not the place you want to get stuck.

We committed and I have never been more of a wreck worrying – what if something goes wrong? what if he sneezes? what if an earthquake hits during the procedure? This is San Francisco, it could happen.

Thankfully, the procedure seems to have gone well. The afternoon after the procedure was a bit fraught – it’s really hard to put in eye drops when post-surgical drops glued your eyelashes together! He hasn’t had any side effects like excessive itching or worse.

The clinic does day-after, 1 week after, 1 month after and 6 months after check-ups, and so far so good. We’ve had some close calls with JuggerBaby smacking him in his “special eyes” after the surgery which was horrifying but so far, he’s come through it ok. I’ll breathe easier when his last check-ups are done and he has a totally clean bill of eye health.

As for the bill, we’ll have them help us take it out of our FSA over the next few years so that particular pain is spread out.

:: Do you wear eyeglasses or contacts? How do you take care of your vision?

25 Responses to “LASIK: our unplanned expense”

  1. I’ve worn contacts since I was 16-years-old, and I can’t say I’ve ever had them “knocked out” of my eyes. That JB has a special talent : ) I too would like to get laser eye surgery. Once the mortgage is paid off (47 months to go – and counting) I’m plan to go for it. I wish PiC all the best as he recovers from the procedure. Here’s to a new chapter of better vision!
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    • Revanche says:

      This is the first time I’ve ever heard of it happening between several people and 30 years of their wearing contacts a piece, too! Ze is a little bit dangerous 😛

      Thanks so much for the good wishes and I am crossing my fingers that yours will go every bit as smoothly.

  2. Karen says:

    Wow, the prices in CA shock me sometimes (and apparently it’s in expensive here in Houston, too.).
    I had LASIK done 5-6 years ago. It was awesome. I was rather freaked out about getting it done, too. My vision has deteriorated a bit at my age. My friend had hers done again after 10 years. I don’t think I would if I’d even qualify again (cornea thickness).

    I hope PiC enjoys his new found “super” vision. It’s so nice to be able to wake up and see clearly!

    • Revanche says:

      The price tag was a hell of a thing. But the loss of the contacts, which could easily happen again, oof. The idea of having to do it again had me freaked, on top of the other stuff, so I was grateful that it SHOULD stay good and not need to be redone. My fingers are crossed.

      He’s loving the clear vision, though!

  3. Linda says:

    I had LASIK done about 16 years ago. At the time, I had run out of options when it came to contacts, and glasses were really uncomfortable. (I tried special contacts and saw a specialist about my contact issues, but still couldn’t wring more than 4 hours out of the lenses before I felt like scratching my eyes out.) There were no guarantees given that I would get 20/20 vision in both eyes, but was told I should be able to pass the driving test in IL without glasses or contacts. I ended up with 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other, and that lasted for several years.

    Then I started to need reading glasses. I had been warned that this could happen, and that correcting my myopia with astigmatism was a different procedure than what they do for people who develop age-related vision issues. So the LASIK was good for about 14 years or so, and then I had to go back to glasses. At this point I’m sure there are no options for surgical vision correction for me since I have so many other eye issues. But it was great while it lasted.

    I’m curious how you can stretch it out over a couple years with your FSA. I thought the FSA could only be used in the year the procedure was done. If you have tips, please let me know because I’m looking at a potential of paying $4,000 for my upcoming eye surgery this summer and IRS rules only allowed me to withhold $2,550 for my FSA this year.
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    • Revanche says:

      Is your vision still better post-LASIK than before, even if you have to use reading glasses?

      Messaged you separately since I think it could be dependent on your provider and FSA provider, don’t want to come off as though I’m advising on this point.

      • Linda says:

        Yes, my distance vision is still quite good. 🙂 Getting out of bed and finding my way around the house sans glasses isn’t usually a problem. Even for driving, I was able to get my CA license without glasses. (That was before all my eye problems, so I’m not sure if that would still be the case.) Reading a computer screen or book, only works with the glasses, though.

        So if PiC is mainly looking for the ability to navigate the world at large, it should work out great. Be prepared for sensitivity to light for many months, though. 🙂
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  4. JuggerBaby is a ninja. I have never had my contacts knocked out either…

    DAMN. $10K? .. I was thinking of LASIK as well but am scared of the surgery and .. well, yeah, the cost.
    sherry @ save. spend. splurge. recently posted…Parts of my Minimalist Home (Apartment)… The Hallway and CoatsMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Ninja – That’s a kind way of putting it.

      We’ve spent an awful lot of money on exams, contacts, contact solutions, and glasses every year, and he’s probably spent at least this much over the past 15-20 years of bad vision. If his vision never changes after this, we’ll break even in about that much time 🙂

  5. eemusings says:

    Oh arse and well done you financial ninja you.

    No way could I stomach the thought of LASIK. Shudder. I was like 20 before I got the guts to try contacts. I wear glasses 99% of the time and contacts occasionally In summer (for beach/sports). Can be a pain, the biggest pain point is around sunglasses as my eyes are quite sensitive. I usually just go with plonking on an oversized pair over my frames.

    We’ve had quite a few discussions at work about it as lots of people have had it and aside from the anecdotes about being able to hear the unpleasant sounds … generally good consensus. Only dissenter was an older lady whose eyes are now deteriorating again, she can’t get it done again, she can’t wear contacts now since the surgery and she has very dry eyes and needs to use drops every day.

    Also a semi friend recently had it done and I saw him not long after – the crazy bloodshot and bruised eyes did freak me out but he’s totally stoked.
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    • Revanche says:

      I still don’t have the nerve to think about trying contacts. Luckily I only need reading glasses right now but it’s scary as all get out to consider putting contacts in my eyes.

      Oh I feel for the older woman, how limiting it must feel with that outcome.

  6. Congrats and condolences. From what I’ve heard from other people, this is worth the cost and is life changing. Let’s hope you feel that way as well!
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  7. Wow, congratulations and I hope PIC’s healing continues to go well!

    I can no longer pass the vision test for driving, but I only wear glasses in the car mostly because I’m lazy. I have an astigmatism, so in an emergency I can scrunch up my eyes and see just fine.

    I have never worn contacts because the idea of putting something in my eyes still creeps me out.
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  8. Wow that sounds really expensive even with insurance and discounts. I’m near-sighted only with my right eye. I’ve been wearing disposable contact lenses for 4 years (the normal ones are too dry for my eyes).

    I think eventually the lasik surgery will pay off since I spend hundreds of dollars on contact lenses every year. I hope he will recover soon!

    • Revanche says:

      It’s expensive, yes, but over the life of his wearing glasses and contacts up to now, he’s spent at least that much, or more, so we’ll break even eventually!

  9. katherine says:

    I wear eyeglasses and have since I was 10. I’ve never tried contacts–putting something in my eye on purpose weirds me out too much. My baby LOVES stealing the glasses off of my face, and I’m thinking of getting some cheap glasses online as a backup pair.

    I don’t want surgery on my eyes unless it’s unavoidable…but wouldn’t mind better eyesight if there was a reliable, painless way to get it.

  10. Anne says:

    Holy poop that’s an expensive LASIK price. Ah well. It is totally worthwhile. I had PRK done in November and it’s amazing how much less annoying life is – no carting glasses cases around; packing half the stuff when you’re going somewhere that you need glasses and contacts and such.
    Plus, no potential JB damage!

    • Revanche says:

      Times like these, I wish we’d scheduled it with an out of state provider for half the cost but then we’d need follow ups too, and that’s not so convenient 🙂

      And if we thought JB was a flaily danger six months ago, ze is even more so now!

  11. I’ve worn glasses since fourth grade and contacts since ninth, although I almost never wear contacts because I just don’t have the energy to put them in. I haven’t had anyone knock one out, but on more than one occasion I have lost a lens after I was out and about, and that’s not an adventure I’d recommend.

    I thought about LASIK a few years ago, and my optometrist thought I’d be a good candidate. I never went to my referral appointment, though, because we were in the midst of daycare costs and could not swing the LASIK on top of that.

    So I stick with glasses. I’m coming up on one year with my first set of progressive lenses, and while they’ve been okay, I’m not sure this is the best solution for my growing need for reading glasses on top of the execrable distance vision I’ve had since childhood. Baguette keeps having me take my glasses off, which is fine if we’re snuggling but completely not workable if I need to, I don’t know, cross a room.
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  12. Stephanie says:

    I wear glasses all the time, and have contacts for the occasional fancy occasion. The good news about that is I just have a bunch of “dailies” so I can use them once and not deal with them “going bad” after that, I just toss them. It came out as the more economical way to deal with that!
    My husband got the eye surgery a few years ago. I think he got the PRK (rather than LASIK). It was definitely pricey, but not as bad as your quotes! We also got discounts through insurance, and used the max amount in my FSA. In retrospect, the time I was most glad he got the surgery was when I was recovering in the hospital after the baby was born; he was able to pop out of his “bed” (the pull out chair they give to partners/spouses in the maternity ward) when our tiny infant started wailing. If he didn’t have the surgery he’d be grabbing around for his glasses. His eyesight was worse than mine, so it would have been really tricky.
    Hopefully PiC’s recovery goes well!
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  13. SherryH says:

    I was always very nearsighted, to the point that I couldn’t make out the faces of people near me with uncorrected vision. I got glasses when I was about eight, and contacts sometime in middle school, I think. I honestly think one of the reasons I adapted so quickly to vision loss was that I was used to navigating half-blind and doing things without being able to really see what I was doing.

    Now, though my old glasses do help sharpen the blurry monochrome outlines I see, the doctors I’ve spoken to don’t think they offer enough improvement to be worthwhile. I’m not sure whether I agree, but for now I have enough other stuff on my plate to let it ride. So…eye surgery is definitely off the table for me!

    Our younger son, on the other hand… He’s nearsighted, and getting more so. If he’s a good candidate, and we could swing it financially, I’d love to see him have the surgery.

    But the cost… Holy carp! Even discounted, that’s more than my student loan! (Two-year degree at the local community college, but still.)

    So glad PiC was able to have it done and the results were good. One less (fewer?) thing to worry about in a crisis!

  14. Mary says:

    I’m curious about your last comment.

    As for the bill, we’ll have them help us take it out of our FSA over the next few years so that particular pain is spread out.

    So you’re paying the full amount upfront but you got them to agree to send you a bill once a year for a couple of years to be able to use your FSA?

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