“What is the refraction fee on my bill?”
This is a common question from our patients and we thought we would take some time here to explain the “ins and outs” of that charge on your bill.
If you visit an eye doctor, including at our office, for a routine eye exam, you may notice an additional charge on your bill labeled as a “refraction fee.” This fee has been a topic of curiosity and sometimes even frustration for many patients. Why do eye doctors charge a refraction fee, and what does it entail? In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons behind this charge and why it plays a crucial role in maintaining your eye health.
What is the refraction?
Before diving into the reasons behind the refraction fee, let’s clarify what refraction is and why it’s essential during an eye examination.
Refraction is the process of determining your eyeglass or contact lens prescription. It involves the use of various lenses and instruments to assess how well your eyes focus on objects at different distances. You know, “which is better… 1 or 2?” The goal is to find the most precise prescription to correct your vision, whether you’re nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism. This part of the eye exam is critical to ensure that you receive the correct vision correction devices, which ultimately improves your visual comfort and clarity.
The Refraction Fee Explained
Now, let’s dive into the reasons why you may be charged a refraction fee:
- Conducting a refraction requires skill and experience to accurately determine the correct prescription. The refraction fee compensates the trained staff and doctors for their expertise in evaluating your visual needs.
- Equipment and Maintenance: Our doctors use specialized equipment and tools for refraction, such as phoropters and autorefractors. These instruments require regular maintenance, calibration, and sometimes costly upgrades to ensure accurate results. The refraction fee helps cover these expenses, ensuring that the equipment used during your exam is up to date and functioning correctly.
- Insurance Considerations: While many aspects of an eye exam may be covered by insurance, refraction is often considered a separate service. That’s right. Insurance often does not reimburse your eye doctors for this essential part of the examination. And because of this, charging separately for refraction is increasingly becoming a standard practice among eye doctors. This is done in order to maintain high-quality care and cover their costs
Why isn’t this fee charged up front then?
The answer to this question comes in part from a somewhat inconsistent distinction that health insurance companies draw: keeping eyes healthy versus improving vision through use of glasses or contacts. Insurance companies typically do not cover the refraction fee when the refraction is used to improve vision with glasses or contacts. Because of that this fee is only charged when a glasses/contacts prescription is directly given to the patient. Not every patient needs glasses or contacts, so until that prescription is written and given to the patient, that is when the refraction fee is charged.
We wish insurance wasn’t so complicated. Hopefully this blog helps you understand what the refraction fee is that may appear on your bill. Though none of us will understand why insurance doesn’t cover it when used to improve vision with glasses and contacts.