LASIK is a very popular and successful procedure, but it is considered cosmetic surgery by eye insurance companies and is therefore rarely covered. The potentially high cost to the consumer has led to certain cost-focused marketing tactics, including the “LASIK 250” campaign. Providers list $250, $299, or $469 as the price per eye which is, ultimately, unrealistic. More often than not, these are simple ‘bait and switch’ tactics.
Online reports state that LASIK 250 and related deals are a scam because refractive surgery centers use a bait-and-switch pricing method, lower quality devices, and less experienced surgeons, all of which can put you and your vision at risk.
It could be possible to make a LASIK 250 deal work for you, but it would require some risk and a lot of work on your part. You must thoroughly research the center, understand your eyes’ health, avoid places that offer guarantees, and ask about any potential additional costs during the consultation.
You don’t want to gamble with your vision. Instead of opting for advertised prices that seem too good to be true, ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a referral for LASIK. Choose a surgeon who has plenty of experience in the field. It’s not worth taking the risk.
LASIK 250: A Scam or a Great Price?
The laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) procedure has earned a reputation over the past several decades for being safe, fast, and effective. This outpatient surgery takes less than 15 minutes per eye to perform. Modern versions of LASIK use lasers at every stage of the process for greater precision.
In the past 20 years, over 40 million LASIK procedures have been performed globally. Although LASIK’s popularity has been leveling out for the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States pursue this treatment every year to correct a refractive error like astigmatism, myopia, or hyperopia.
One of the reasons fewer people pursue LASIK is the cost. While some insurance plans are starting to help with some of LASIK’s cost, the average quoted price is between $2,000 and $3,000 per eye. Vision insurance will usually help to cover the cost of glasses and contact lenses, but refractive surgeries are not considered medically necessary in most cases. When a less expensive option, like a coupon or steep discount for the procedure, comes up, it can seem very appealing if you want LASIK but cannot afford it.
One option that has become extremely popular is LASIK 250. This is a term for LASIK discounts typically offered through surgery centers, listing $250 per eye as the starting price.
There are many warnings against using these services. If you want LASIK but cannot afford thousands of dollars for the operation, it is important to be aware that LASIK 250 can be a scam.
Why Is LASIK 250 Considered a Scam?
LASIK 250 is essentially discounts on LASIK procedures, often through vision surgery centers that offer all-laser LASIK, photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), and some other cosmetic refractive surgeries. There are several reasons the price is listed at $250, $299, $469, or other low prices per eye, and some of them are bait-and-switch marketing ploys.
When consumers refer to LASIK 250 as a scam, here are the problems they are met with:
- The listed price does not cover every aspect of the procedure like the eye exam, consultation, and postsurgical follow-up care.
- The discount means you are not getting high-quality technology, so the surgery center skips necessary maintenance or upgrades. If you want to use their best available laser for your eye surgery, you’ll have to pay more.
- Your surgeon may not be as trained or skilled as an eye surgeon who charges more.
These are serious issues that can put you at risk, both financially and physically. While surgeons must train in the LASIK procedure, working with a less-trained surgeon puts you at a higher risk of side effects. Undergoing LASIK with poorly maintained equipment means you are more likely to have an undercorrection or overcorrection, so you are more likely to need a second surgery. If the center is not upfront with you about costs, or you do not ask for clarity about the costs, you could get stuck with a high bill you were not expecting.
Finally, most people do not qualify for the reduced billing price of $250 per eye. This price covers mild refractive errors, at -1.0 or +1.0 diopters for nearsightedness or farsightedness. If your vision doesn’t fall in this limited range, expect to pay more.
How to Make LASIK 250 Deals Work for You
Although these discounted surgery centers offer LASIK 250 and other startling deals on refractive surgeries, you can work with this beginning price and potentially get LASIK for less than you would with another eye surgeon. While it’s best to go with an experienced surgeon who isn’t engaging in these bait-and-style pricing tactics, here are some ways to make the deal work for you:
- Look at deals that say “starting at $250” or similar. This means there will be several additional fees, which you should ask about during the consultation. These fees can still add up to less than $2,000 per eye, which is in your favor.
- Know your eyes. Getting regular eye exams is crucial to your eye health because you can understand whether your refractive error is changing, if you have underlying conditions, and your history with side effects or problems with contact lenses or glasses. Knowing this about your vision means you can speak to an optometrist during your LASIK 250 consultation about your refractive error and whether you qualify for the lower cost LASIK price.
- Avoid guarantees. Although LASIK is a very successful surgery, improving vision to 20/40 or better for over 90 percent of patients, there are risks and side effects, just like with any other surgical procedure. Not everyone likes the outcome of their LASIK surgery, and not everyone has improved vision. Though rare, it’s possible to experience serious side effects like chronic, permanent dry eye or even blindness.
If the surgical center you go to guarantees 20/20 vision and does not discuss risks, go somewhere else.
- Understand the equipment. The excimer laser is the device that removes tissue from the inner part of your cornea during any LASIK procedure. This medical device has been on the market for over 20 years, and there are several patented versions available around the country.
It is likely that LASIK 250 offers use older models, but this does not inherently make them bad options for your procedure. Patents have forced surgeons to raise the cost of their procedures for years, because eye surgeons must buy from specific manufacturers and then undergo very specific training.
You can research the history of LASIK devices on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, and ask surgery centers about the devices they use.
- Research the surgery center. While online consumer reviews can be manipulated by some companies, organizations like the Better Business Bureau, FDA, and Consumer Reports offer information on many companies and their marketing practices, including whether there have been any product recalls or complaints about poor management or harm to consumers. Before going to a consultation or eye exam, use these resources to ensure you are going to a center with a good track record.
Your Eye Health Is the Top Priority
While LASIK 250 is certainly a marketing ploy to get you in the door at certain refractive surgery centers, it is not always a dangerous scam. There are places that offer unrealistic and unsafe guarantees, lie about prices, and fail to give you proper health care; however, if you know what to ask when you walk in the door, you can find lower cost LASIK options with a good quality eye surgeon, at a safe location.
The reduced price means more work on your part. If you go to your optometrist or ophthalmologist and ask them for a referral for LASIK surgery, you can feel secure knowing your doctor has your overall health in mind.
A highly trained, respected eye surgeon using the latest technology will cost more than LASIK 250, but they will also not offer unrealistic guarantees, will answer your health-related questions, and will be upfront about the entire process. When you go with an experienced professional, you’ll feel safe throughout the entire process, from preparation to aftercare.
LASIK for $299: Is This a Scam? (July 2013). RealSelf.
FDA-Approved Lasers for LASIK/Patient Information. (January 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).