FEDVIP Vision Plans for Military Retirees

TRICARE pays for medically necessary eye care, such as cataract surgery. Military retirees and dependents of uniformed personnel on active duty will now be able to choose from eight vision plans that cover annual eye examinations, and pay most or all of the cost for the annual new pair of glasses or contact lenses, depending on whether you opt for simple lens and frame benefit or for more expensive options such as premium frames or anti-reflective coating and progressive lenses.

The FEDVIP vision plans use the purchasing power of their enrollees to obtain discounts for all participants. They are not true insurance plans and will not pay for lost or broken glasses or for medical or surgical eye care. Instead, they allow you to prepay your anticipated and routine costs for refractive eye examination, glasses and frames (one pair per year), contact lenses (once a year), and related services and supplies. If you plan to purchase unusually expensive frames, or multiple pairs of glasses, you will need to rely on discounts rather than direct plan benefits. You can get these benefits at a wide range of vision providers.

There are two good ways to find which vision providers are in vision plan networks. If you have a good provider you are now using, just ask that provider which plans the provider (or provider chain) accepts at network rates. Or you can use the plan's URL (shown in our Vision Plans table) to look up any plan's directory.

Unfortunately, the vision plan brochures do not present benefits in a consistent format, making them very hard to compare. We have attempted to capture most of the important features of the plans in our Guide on Vision Plans to help you decide which plans you may want to examine in depth. In general, their benefits and premiums are similar, but most offer both high and standard options with differences in both premiums and cost sharing. If you have a preferred optician or eyewear outlet, you should ask which plan(s) it affiliates with to inform your decision.

You have several alternatives to enrolling in these plans. You can simply decide to pay for your predictable dental and vision expenses without the bother of using a plan or being restricted to its providers. If you combine this with prudent shopping, you can achieve substantial savings. For example, Consumers' Checkbook rates dozens of providers for optical services and found that prices one-fourth or more below (or above) the average for glasses or contact lenses were not uncommon.

The primary advantage of joining a vision plan is that it enables you to lock in a provider discount while budgeting for your eyewear. You pay roughly $10 to $30 a month (depending on your family size and which plan you select) knowing that each covered family member will be able to get a good deal on a refractive examination and one good set of eyewear equipment. This is particularly important for families with young children, whose vision needs often change every year and for whom good vision correction is vital for schooling. But it is equally important for older persons whose eyesight deteriorates with age.