The costs associated with contact lenses can be broken down into three main categories: consultation fees, lens costs and maintenance costs.
Consultation fees are the fees charged by eye care professionals for their services. Some of these fees are covered by Medicare, while others are not.
Medicare provides benefits for initial eye examinations for all Australians, although there are some limitations. A full benefit is payable for an eye examination by an optometrist every two years, or more frequently if there a clinical justification for the examination. If a person consults a second optometrist within two years of their previous examination, a reduced benefit is paid unless the person has been referred by the previous optometrist.
Medicare also pays benefits for consultations relating to prescribing contact lenses,however not all Australians are eligible for these benefits. In order for benefits to be paid, a patient must meet one of nine criteria, based on their clinical condition. These criteria are intended to ensure that Medicare will pay benefits for people who require contact lenses in order to achieve satisfactory vision, rather than for people who simply want contact lenses for sports or cosmetic reasons. The nine criteria are set out below.
||Myopia (shortsightedness) of 5.00 dioptres or more
||Hyperopia (longsightedness) of 5.00 dioptres or more
||Astigmatism of 3.00 dioptres or more
|| Irregular astigmatism causing visual acuity worse than 6/12 with spectacles, and which can be improved with contact lenses.
||Anisometropia (difference between refractive errors in the two eyes) of 3.00 dioptres or more
||Where the lens is prescribed as part of a telescopic system for a person with low vision(worse than 6/30)
||Where a tinted lens is prescribed to treat a congenital, traumatic or surgical abnormality of the eye
||Where a physical deformity prevents the patient from wearing spectacles
||Where the patient has a medical or optical condition (other than the ones listed above)which necessitates the use of contact lenses.
||Where there is a structural or functional change in the eye (other than a simple power change) or an allergic response which necessitates a change in parameters.
Note: the actual wording of the conditions applying to each item are more detailed than this summary. If you have any doubt about your eligibility, your optometrist will be able to advise you on the exact requirements, and the costs involved in obtaining contact lenses.
People who are not eligible for Medicare contact lens benefits will have to pay private consultation fees. These vary, and people contemplating contact lenses should discuss them with their optometrist.
The cost of a pair of contact lenses can vary enormously, depending on the type of lenses.The range of prices for a pair of soft spherical lenses is around $150 to $400. Soft toric lenses and rigid lenses cost more, due to the more complex manufacturing techniques involved in producing them. Other factors affecting the price of contact lenses include tinting and other options.
Although frequent replacement lenses are less expensive than conventional lenses, they need to be replaced more often. As a result, the annual cost of wearing contact lenses is similar for both frequent replacement and conventional lenses.
The price of contact lenses often also includes a warranty on the lenses, allowing them to be exchanged within a set period if necessary. This is useful if it is necessary to alter the lens design to improve the lens fit and performance. Some warranties also allow lenses to be returned for a refund if the patient finds they cannot wear the lenses.
All contact lenses, apart from those which are intended to be discarded after one use,need to be cleaned and disinfected. There are therefore ongoing costs involved in lens wear, as cleaning and disinfection solutions will need to be purchased.