Medically Reviewed by Antoine K. Fahd, M.D., PhD.
Can (& Should) You Get LASIK for Free?
Medically Reviewed by Antoine K. Fahd, M.D., PhD.
Table of Contents
You want clear vision, but you do not want to pay up to $3,000 per eye for refractive surgeries. If you run across coupons or offers for free LASIK surgery, are these legitimate?
There are some ways to get discounted LASIK procedures from safe laser eye surgery centers, but it is important to look at reviews. Ask your optometrist about the reputations of these centers, to ensure you aren’t putting the health of your eyes at risk.
Some offers of free LASIK aren’t what they seem. Centers may advertise free LASIK but then add on various supplementary costs. You may discover that the free option is performed with an outdated laser.
With more vision insurance companies offering LASIK discounts or coverage, you do not always have to pay the full upfront cost. Check with your optometrist or insurance provider for a LASIK surgeon referral.
LASIK: Can You Get Free Treatment?
LASIK stands for laser in-situ keratomileusis, a laser eye surgery designed to correct several types of refractive errors. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism can all be adjusted to within 20/20 vision or better.
With this short outpatient surgery, you can improve your vision and reduce or eliminate your need for glasses and contact lenses. The recovery time is a few days, and side effects are minimal and easy to manage if they do occur.
LASIK can be expensive upfront. While many vision insurance providers are starting to partner with LASIK surgery centers and ophthalmologists who offer this service, the cost can still be prohibitive for some.
Out of pocket, LASIK typically costs $2,000 to $3,000 per eye, depending on where you live and how reputable your surgeon or the surgery center is. Even with an insurance discount, surgery on one eye can easily cost hundreds of dollars.
Due to the great expense, some centers offer steeply discounted LASIK options, and it is possible to find offers for free LASIK. If you find this offer, it is very important to understand where the offer comes from, do your research, and ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist if it seems valid. It is very unlikely that it is actually free.
Many disreputable operations will advertise free LASIK, and it’s essentially a scam. As the saying goes, nothing in life is free.
For your vision’s safety, it is better to find methods like flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), or other health insurance benefits to reduce the cost. Free LASIK is not likely to be good LASIK.
The surgery center may use outdated lasers, employ surgeons with little experience, and take shortcuts that result in poor outcomes. They are likely to tack on various other fees, such as exam fees, preoperative fees, postoperative fees, and aftercare fees. Ultimately, they are simply applying the charges to other items and advertising it as “free LASIK.” This is a bait and switch.
What Are Methods for Getting Free LASIK?
The cost of LASIK can appear out of reach for many people, but vision insurance providers are working with more LASIK surgery centers to offer discounts. Some LASIK surgery centers offer coupon-style discounts. Sometimes, a company will work with a LASIK surgery center to offer free treatment as a prize.
If you find a surgery center or surgeon offering free LASIK, it is important to be skeptical. Reputable surgeons train and get certified to perform this meticulous procedure, use specialized equipment, and provide consistent follow-up exams to keep your eyes healthy and ensure you are healing properly.
Extreme discounts or free LASIK may not provide as many follow-up appointments, so you could pay out of pocket or through your insurance to go to a different ophthalmologist. You could undergo LASIK with a less trained surgeon, which increases your risk of side effects. The equipment could be older, not well serviced, or out of date. This does not mean free options are always unsafe, but you should research the center or surgeon.
Some ways of getting free LASIK include:
- Contest prizes. Since so many people are interested in LASIK, the procedure occasionally appears as a prize for sweepstakes or contests. Surgeons or surgery centers may use this as a promotional tool for their new business.If you win a free LASIK procedure in a raffle, ask friends and family if they know this surgery center, look at reviews online, and ask your optometrist about them for information on the business’s legitimacy. There could be a reason that they are offering free LASIK as a prize, like if the surgeon does not have a lot of experience and they are trying to drum up business.
- Coupons. Online coupons like Groupon and LivingSocial are extremely popular ways for many people to get dinners at nice restaurants, bottles of wine, spa treatments, and more. Cosmetic health care centers are increasingly offering significant discounts on treatments from microdermabrasion to Botox to LASIK.
- Sometimes, the price is so low for LASIK treatment that, in combination with your savings or a health savings account (HSA), the treatment is basically free. However, you should always ask your optometrist about these surgery centers, ask trusted friends and family if they have an opinion, and check for online reviews, including through the Better Business Bureau.
- You can also check with your vision insurance for significant LASIK discounts. If these discounts line up with an online coupon company like Groupon, you can ask about combining them to get low-priced, good-quality LASIK treatment.
- Through loved ones. More people are raising money online through crowdfunding to cover all kinds of medical treatments, including cosmetic or elective procedures. You may be able to get financial help from friends and family to get LASIK, especially if you explain how it will improve the quality of your life.
Most often, if you see advertisements for free LASIK, it typically means that the consultation or exam is free. You will still have to pay the cost of surgery or pay a discounted rate on the procedure. These deals are often good options for people who are interested in LASIK but are not sure if they are good candidates.
You can go in for the free exam and learn that you are not a good candidate for LASIK. Most people with healthy eyes heal well and get good visual clarity after LASIK, but there are some risks like chronic dry eye or thin corneas. If your corneas are too thin, you may not be able to get LASIK.
Safest Methods for Discounts on LASIK Treatment
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) changed the limits for how much money you can set aside in 2019. With a higher limit, you can slowly save to get LASIK and use your HSA or FSA to pay for the procedure. It is not precisely free, but it can feel like a free or cheap outpatient procedure since you’ve put aside this money for this purpose.
An FSA allows you to put money from your paycheck aside pre-tax, to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses. An HSA puts money aside pre-tax through payroll deductions and covers out of pocket medical expenses that come up. While there are some restrictions on how you can apply FSAs and HSAs, LASIK is an eligible expense.
With more vision insurance policies offering discounts or partially covering LASIK procedures, there is no reason for you to pay entirely out of pocket for this operation. You can get high-quality LASIK for much less money than in years past.
It is important to do your research on a LASIK surgeon or surgery center that offers significant discounts or free surgeries. Confirm they are a legitimate operation, and their surgeons have plenty of experience. Confirm they are using up-to-date equipment, and ask about any hidden or additional fees. Get a total for the amount you will have to pay for the entire service, including exams and follow-up care. It’s not going to be zero.
For the best results, it’s a good idea to ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a LASIK referral.
- LASIK. (March 2018). United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- How to Use Your FSA and HSA for LASIK Surgery: 2019 Update. (December 2015). American Refractive Surgery Council (ARSC).
- Four Clever Ways to Get Free or Discounted LASIK Eye Surgery. (June 2016). The Huffington Post.
- See Boise Better with a Free LASIK Procedure. (May 2019). MIX106Radio.
- LASIK Eye Surgery Near Me. Groupon.
- Save $800 on LASIK Plus Get a FREE Exam. (September 2019). Anthem.