Just like regular dental and medical check-ups, eye exams are an important part of maintaining good overall health. But there can be some uncertainty around their cost that makes us hesitate about booking one.
To help keep your eyes in tip-top shape, we've put together a comprehensive guide to the cost of an eye exam in Canada. We've got you covered, whatever part of the beautiful land you call home.
The cost of an eye exam in Canada varies depending on two factors: where you live and how old you are.
Throughout our adult years, fluctuations in eyesight are usually minimal. However, children and older adults often experience fluctuations in their eyesight. In most areas, this means that they receive free annual eye exams.
For those not covered by the insurance program in their province, you can expect to pay $80-$300 out of pocket.
Why Are Eye Exams Important?
Many people think their vision is just fine - until they get an eye exam. Once you're fitted with the correct prescription glasses or contact lenses, you suddenly realize just how much detail you were missing.
Checking your vision is just one aspect of an eye exam, though. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are trained to detect the signs of eye diseases in the early stages. By catching them early, there is a better chance of successful treatment that prevents vision loss.
Eye Exam Cost in Ontario
Over one-third of Canadians live in Ontario. They receive medical coverage through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Does OHIP cover eye exams? Yes and no.
People under 19 or over 65 can receive one free eye test every year. Currently, under OHIP you can also receive a free eye exam if you have one or more of the following medical conditions:
visual field defects
optic pathway disease
If you are on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works program, you may also be eligible for additional eye care benefits. Adults between 19 and 65 may also be able to access a free eye test if they are referred by a doctor because of a specific medical concern.
How Much Is an Eye Exam in Ontario?
The cost of an eye exam in Ontario varies between $50 to sometimes exceed $250. The overall cost depends on the doctor as well as the type of test you may need.
Paying outright for exams in Ontario is often very costly for many folks, hence why finding a provider that offers affordable services without compromising the quality of care is often a priority.
Cost of Eye Exam in Ontario vs Other Cities
Surprisingly, the eye exam prices in Ontario actually fall on the lower side in comparison to the rest of the provinces across Canada.
As an example, in Toronto, an eye exam can cost you between $75 and $250. In the city of Vancouver however, expect to spend $75-$310 on the high end. In Montreal, the cost of an eye exam increases even more ranging from $120-$320. Continuing along the coast to Halifax and those costs decrease slightly. There, you will pay $70-$250.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) estimates that on the national level the average cost of an eye exam in Canada is $200. That estimation is why in Ontario, you are receiving excellent value for your money.
Private Health Care Plans will Help Offset the Cost of Eye Exams
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Eye Exam Cost and Healthcare Coverage in Other Provinces
Below you can check which specific provinces offer eye care through government healthcare and the cost range of commercial eye exam.
BC residents are covered by the Medical Services Plan (MSP). This provides a free eye test per year for those aged 18 or under and over 65. Even if you are not in one of these age brackets, you are still covered for treatment for eye diseases and injuries under the MSP.
Those with the medical needs outlined above for Ontario are also covered. All ages can access care for eye diseases and injuries.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Unlike most other provinces, there is currently no free eye exam coverage for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. If you receive Income Support, you can request help to cover the cost of an eye test and glasses.
MCP (Medical Care Plan) will assist with $55 towards a routine eye exam each year if you are a child, and once every 3 years for an adult. For those same age groups, MSP will contribute $175.00 for bifocals, and $125.00 towards single vision lenses.
New Brunswick's Medicare Health Plan (MCP) residents do not receive free eye exams at any age. For those considered low-income however, the government of New Brunswick offers a vision program which assists clients and their dependents aged 19 and older with vision care.
Manitoba Health Insurance Services (MHSIP) offers a free, complete eye exam to residents aged under 19 and over 65 every two years. This also applies to those with the health conditions which affect eye health.
Nova Scotia's Medical Services Insurance (MSI) ensures that all residents with a medical need are able to access a free eye exam in Nova Scotia. In line with many other provinces, those under 19 and over 65 may also benefit from a free eye test every two years.
Those under 18 can take advantage of a free comprehensive eye exam, one partial exam, and one follow-up exam every year. The key difference in Saskatchewan is that those over 18 are also entitled to a free eye test every year. There is also coverage for medical necessities.
Prince Edward Island
Currently, there is no provision for free eye exams for residents of Prince Edward Island for adults. There is however, the Eye See, Eye Learn Program which provides one free pair of glasses and one free eye exam for children who are in pre-k programs, or kindergarten age.
What Are The Factors That Influence the Eye Exam Cost?
The cost of eye exams fluctuates for various reasons. Understanding the factors that contribute to these fluctuations, will shed some light on the out-of-pocket fees you may incur.
Being a New or Existing Patient
Being a new patient will raise the cost of an eye exam. Your optometrist will have to perform more tests in order to understand your existing eye health. Your initial consultation will also take longer than if you are a recurring patient. If you are a regular patient, your doctor can begin assessing you right away without having to record critical information which is necessary for them to able to do their jobs thoroughly.
Let's face it, cities are far more expensive to live in than rural areas. The cost of real estate in some cases quadruples that of an equal space outside the city. Therefore, in order to cover overheads, the cost of an exam is impacted by location.
Private eye care clinics are often far more expensive then clinics which live inside stores like Walmart or Costco. Big conglomerates have massive buying power and have the ability to negotiate lower prices on their products, supplies and equipment due to bulk ordering.
Each visit to the eye doctor is unique and depending on your situation, there may be additional fees. There may be a requirement for more in-depth procedures, treatments, or medication. On a list of possible cost add-ons, it's not unusual to see the following:
A lens exam is an in-depth analysis of your eyes ability to focus and to adjust to various visual aids. For those who are at a higher risk of eye diseases including cataracts, these tests would be highly recommended.
It's very common for your prescription to change, especially as you age or habits change, especially in today's digital world. Even without any aging or outside factors however, your prescription will likely change every 2-3 years. There are also varying differences in the cost of prescription lenses in Canada as there are many different types of lenses to choose from.
It is so important to replace your contact lenses regularly and more to that you will need to ensure that you are purchasing the cleaning supplies required to maintain them.
Thankfully, in Canada, medically necessary eye surgeries are covered by provincial health care plans. Otherwise, those living in the USA for example can expect to pay anywhere from $3,783-$6,898 per eye for a routine cataract procedure. What is not covered in Canada however is laser eye surgery. While the price has gone down significantly over years, the benefits of laser eye surgery far outweigh the costs.
Cheapest Eye Exam Near Me
Walmart and Costco offer less expensive options when it comes to the cost of eye exams. With Costco's eye exams being priced at an average of $70 and Walmart for $75, they are most definitely the more budget friendly options. These are far more affordable than private clinics. The inclusion of eye clinics in massive department stores is a genius one. It eliminates a trip to the doctor because let's face it, we all need something at Costco or Walmart anyway right?
But those aren't the only places you will find affordable eye care. There are other eyecare franchises that offer fair pricing for eye exams. Here’s a list of the most affordable retail eye clinics in Canada:
Private Insurance Can Help With The Cost of An Eye Exam
Many private health insurance plans can help with eye exam costs. Typically, they set a dollar figure they will cover for an eye test, usually once every two years. Some plans also pay out for glasses, contact lenses, and frames within a set budget.
Optometrists may recommend a course of vision therapy. This is prescribed for a range of conditions, including lazy eye (amblyopia), eye turns, and binocular vision. Most insurance companies do not cover this as standard. Look out for the term "orthoptic" when comparing vision insurance packages.
Insurdinary is one of Canada's top financial comparison platforms. We can help you to work through the jargon, and find the vision insurance coverage you need.
Is It Worth It to Get Vision Insurance?
That depends on your personal circumstances. If you need corrective lenses, then insurance could greatly reduce the out-of-pocket expenses involved in an eye exam. If you have a family history of eye problems, then it's good to get coverage.
Do you only need a regular eye exam to check your eye health and don't use corrective lenses? Compare the cost of the insurance with paying for an eye exam yourself.
You can rely on Insurdinary to help you make the right choice. Our specialist insurance team is experienced in helping Canadians to compare insurance policies based on their individual needs. Not all vision care plans offer the same level of coverage, so it's important to work with a specialist to get a plan tailored to your requirements.
More Eye Exam FAQs
We've taken a deep dive into the cost of eye exams in Ontario and how they compare to the rest of the provinces in Canada. It's a huge topic though so let's take a look at more specific questions about eye exams such as, what to expect, what they diagnose and the person who's performing them.
What Conditions Can Eye Tests Diagnose?
When performing the eye exam, they will look for signs of diseases. These can include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. All of these eye diseases are leading causes of blindness in adults.
Those with diabetes should have an eye test every year. If you have a family history or a higher risk of developing glaucoma, you should have an eye test every two years.
Children need to have regular eye exams, and these should start early. This can help to identify and treat conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), a common cause of vision loss in children.
Who Performs An Exam?
Optometrists perform regular eye exams. They are not physicians but they have had special training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of eye and vision conditions.
An optometrist will prescribe glasses and contact lenses. They can also prescribe certain drugs and treatments for eye conditions. But if they discover more serious eye issues, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist.
An ophthalmologist is a physician who has had specialized training in diagnosing and treating eye diseases. They can also perform surgery if needed.
What Can I Expect At An Eye Exam?
At an eye exam, the optometrist will begin with a discussion of your general health and family history. Come to the appointment prepared to discuss any specific issues that you have been experiencing. Bring your current glasses and the names of any prescription medications you take.
Before your eye exam, it's good to not put too much strain on your eyes. Working at a computer for a long time before an exam is not ideal. Also, coffee can elevate blood pressure, so it might be best to hold off until after your exam.
What Equipment Will the Doctor Use?
The first piece of equipment the doctor will use is a tonometer. This measures the pressure in the eyeball. This is the 'air puff' machine. It can also be used to test for glaucoma.
Next, the phoropter is used—the machine the optometrist uses to determine the eyeglass numbers needed to correct your vision. You are usually asked to compare lenses and read lines of text while looking through the lenses in the machine. This is known as a Snellen Chart. Pay close attention! Accurate responses are needed to make the correct diagnosis.
Your eye doctor will also use an ophthalmoscope to examine inside the eye. This includes a small slight and a series of mirrors to help them get a clear view of the retina and look for any signs of deterioration. They may also use a retinal camera to take a more in-depth look at the retina.
Can You Do an Eye Exam Online?
Online eye exams are possible and have become more popular during the COVID pandemic. However, at best, they can only provide a vision test. They cannot check the health of your eyes. They can be great in an emergency when you need to know your prescription in a hurry. But they are not a substitute for an in-person eye exam.
The Bottom Line
The cost of an eye exam in Canada is something every Canadian should plan for each year. Many young people and seniors receive coverage from their provincial health insurance. Others will need to plan insurance or cover the expense out of pocket.
Whichever applies to you, it's not worth taking a risk with your eye health. Regular eye exams keep eyes healthy, vision clear and crisp, and help to identify problems before they become serious.
At Insurdinary, we are here to help you get the vision care plan you need to cover all your family's vision care needs. We help you search through Canada's top insurance providers to get the best coverage. Contact us today to get the process started.