Time to order contacts again — or why I think “contact lens fittings” are a rip-off

Last year after I painfully paid $175 for a year’s worth of contact lenses and the accompanying “contact lens fitting” that wasn’t covered by my insurance, I considered setting aside money every month for this yearly expense. I don’t know why I didn’t, but now I really regret it.

It’s time for me to order contacts again, which means I need to make an appointment with the optometrist for my yearly eye exam. The exam is covered by my insurance with no co-pay because it’s considered preventative care. Anything associated with contact lenses, however, isn’t covered. That includes the “contact lens fitting,” which I consider the biggest rip-off I’ve ever had to pay for health care.

My prescription hasn’t changed since I was a kid. I won’t be changing my brand of contacts either. But I’ll still have to pay an extra $75 for my doctor to write me a prescription for contacts. I need that prescription to order my contacts anywhere, even if I choose cheaper vendors online.

What does the contact lens fitting involve? Well, not a whole lot. After my regular exam, the doctor will give me a trial pair of lenses — the same lenses I’ve been wearing for a year without any problems. Then I’ll schedule an appointment to come back two weeks later. At the second appointment, the doctor will come in and ask me if I’ve had any problems with the contacts that have worked absolutely fine all year. I’ll tell him they’re fine, and he’ll write me my contacts prescription so I can order another year’s supply.


Pardon this rant, but it really bugs me. I called around to several optometrists, but of course they all require this “fitting” appointment. I understand why a doctor I’ve never seen would require something like this (somewhat), but why would the doctor I saw last year who prescribed these contacts that have been absolutely fine for 12 months require me to do this again if I haven’t had any problems?

I suppose the most frugal thing for me to do would be to stop wearing contacts all together and wear glasses instead. But I hate my glasses. My prescription magnifies my vision. So my glasses make my eyes look comically big. Tony doesn’t think so, but I’m just uncomfortable wearing them. Not only that, but it wouldn’t be comfortable to wear glasses at the gym when I’m working out.

I’m usually not one to complain about medical expenses. I do what I have to do to stay healthy, and I understand that things like prescriptions and exams cost money. I value my health, and I consider most health care related costs to be absolutely worth the money. But this just seems so ridiculous and unnecessary. Don’t you just hate when our health care system requires us to pay for unnecessary things just so doctors can profit?

I’ve learned my lesson. This year I’ll be putting aside $15 a month for contacts so I won’t have to pay a lump sum all at once and throw off my budget next year. /rant

Photo by chrismar

12 thoughts on “Time to order contacts again — or why I think “contact lens fittings” are a rip-off

  1. Amanda

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is completely bogus! I’ve been putting off going to the optometrist for this exact reason. I’ve been wearing contacts since I was 11, and I’ve been wearing the same brand for 4 years. Why should I pay $75 so that I can tell someone else that everything’s fine. Such a total rip-off. But once you get used to contacts, it’s hard (read: impossible) to go back. So I guess I’ll just have to swallow the cost.

  2. Erin

    I have successfully ordered contact lenses on the internet without a prescription. They tell you that they have to check with the Dr’s office and that you don’t have a current prescription, but they sent them anyway. Maybe it is worth a shot?

  3. Marla

    I’ve done what Erin does too – Canadian based websites will sell you contacts without the prescription. I used to go through the process too but I finally figured out that if I call my optometrist’s office and just say I need six months worth of contacts, they just charge my credit card and send them to me, no questions asked. Now I just go in for exams and “fittings” when I think something has changed. I’m with you, those annual exams are a rip.

  4. Chelsa

    $75 is crazy! I’ve been working in the optometry field for 4 years and I’ve never even heard of charging a “fit” for a former patient annual exam. It should just be a contact lens eval. At our office its $33 every year for us to do the eval on your current contacts, make sure they are still fitting the corneal properly (because corneal shape can change for CL wearers over time) and we re-take cornea measurements to compare with the year before. Even if the patient wants to switch to a different brand, and they are a former patient, its still just a one-time eval fee of $33. It might be worth it for you to switch to a different Doc that doesn’t charge a new fitting fee every year for his patients.

    I must say that seeing your eye doc every year if you are a contact wearer is crucial. So many CL problems we see happen when the patient is not aware (good comfort, good vision). The tissues can even develop allergies to solutions as well which can cause corneal scaring. I would hate to know what your Doc charges if you have to go back repeatedly for a CL prob. I would change :)

  5. Cecily

    I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but. I order my lenses from a popular online/phone site, and have for about six years, and I have NEVER gotten an exam during that time. They always tell me that they have to “verify” my prescription, but they haven’t actually done it in years.


  6. kasey

    Before I had Lasik, which was the best investment ever, I always used the Wal-Mart Vision Clinic and never had to schedule a second exam for lens fitting. If you have one in your area try there maybe.

  7. Liz

    I think you have some misconceptions/misinformation here….LOL. Having worked for an optometrist, being near sighted does not make your lenses magnify your eyes. That is far sighted vision, where it makes your eyes look “larger.” Being near sighted actually makes your eyes look a lot smaller if you have a particularly bad prescription.

    And it is not the doctor that is trying to make money by bringing you in each year (for contacts) and every two years (for glasses). The insurance company requires it, and even if you had no insurance, it is still the health and safety act that is going to govern prescriptions. Whether it’s a controlled substance (i.e. valium), or contact lens/glasses prescriptions.

    In all reality, it is in your best interest to go every year. I can see and understand not liking the price. I do agree with that wholeheartedly. But it’s for the safety and health of your eyes. I went through a period of about 8 years or so where my prescription did not change. It changed before that, but then I leveled off. Then suddenly in my 30’s, my vision started getting worse EVERY year. It then went into double digits (my RX was -12.25). The health of my eyes was good, and my optometrist HIGHLY recommend Lasik if I could afford it. My vision was too high for that, so I had to do it the old fashioned way (knife), but needless to say my visits to my optometrist were over. I appreciated him looking out for me and NOT the almighty dollar.

    I understand your ranting, but gynecologist exam is fine each and every year and I am 38 years old. I still go every year. No way am I taking the chance on having something go wrong and I not know about it. My health is worth my money!

    1. Karen

      Liz – Thanks for your perspective. I’m always confusing near/far-sightedness, so it appears I chose the wrong description of my vision problems.

      I do think you missed the point of my post a bit. My issue isn’t with the exam. I’m happy to get a vision exam every single year. My issue is with the EXTRA cost for contact lenses when there is so little involved in the appointment.

  8. Holly

    Like Kasey, I also go to Walmart Vision Center, and love it. I just went (was due for my 2-year visit) and paid 99.00 for the exam and two boxes of contacts.
    Eventually, when we’re done having kids, I plan to have Lasik surgery.

  9. Amy

    I won’t even go into how lame the American healthcare and insurance is. I hate that I am paying so much for insurance and they won’t cover half of what I need them to. My insurance only covers $40 of the $99 exam…and $80 of the $308.00 for 6 months of contacts. Unfortunately, I am one of the ones who’s prescription does seem to change every single year…so for me not going is not really feesible. That said…I find it so frustrating that the last time I went to the eye dr. at Visionworks my brand of contacts was changed. I was very unhappy with the new brand and requested a change or to go back to the ones I had before. They told me I would have to come back and pay for another complete eye exam. When I asked if I could keep the same brand and just change from dailies to weekly/monthly contacts, I was told the same thing. So yeah, I feel like they were doing it for profit. Not only that…but they were RUDE, and tried to talk to me like I wanted something for free. We are trying to be frugal as well…attempting to pay a $123K loan in 4 years…so I’ve resorted to glasses…which I HATE, but its a sacrafice I’m making. I am certainly saving my coins for Lasik when I become a candidate….I want to be done with contacts and glasses and ridiculous eye drs.

  10. Lisa

    Look into Lasik, I ran it through my medical spending plan at work, saving on the tax and making it an interest free loan. Employer took out $XXX.XX per pay check even though I had the total amount available at the beginning of the year. I even got a discount price with my insurance. It’s been 4 years now and don’t regret one minute of it. I didn’t go the cheap route either b/c of previous eye health issues, but it’s paid off in expenses for glasses or contacts, their care and just the enjoyment of seeing clearly when I open my eyes.

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