Many people suffer from eye and vision issues that require corrective lenses. In fact, about 4 million people in the United States over the age of 40 have poor eyesight that necessitates contacts or glasses – 20/40 or lower vision. This is especially true of older people – age-related vision problems are a natural part of life. But there are many different types of conditions that may lead you to need contact lenses. The most common ones include:

  • Age-related macular degeneration, which blurs central vision used for driving, sewing, reading and other basic activities
  • Myopia, or shortsightedness, which causes objects in the distance to seem blurred
  • Hypermetropia, or farsightedness, which cases objects close up to appear blurry
  • Astigmatism, an abnormal curving of the cornea that causes fuzzy vision

What are conventional contact lenses?
Contact lenses are small discs that are placed directly over the cornea to correct vision issues. They're typically made from silicone or plastic, and the shape of the lens will depend on your vision condition as well as the prescription written by your eye doctor. For many people, prescriptions alter over time due to changes in the shape of the eye.

Many people are afraid to try contacts because of fear of foreign objects in the eye and worries about discomfort. However, recent improvements in contact technology has made them more comfortable, safer and easier to insert.

Does Medicare cover conventional contact lenses?
Medicare, in general, does not pay for the cost of conventional contacts or eyeglasses. Medicare, however, may cover part of the cost of contacts for people who have had cataract surgery that involves implanting an intraocular lens – temporary corrective vision treatment is often required following this procedure. In such cases, Medicare Part B will pay for 80 percent of the cost of your contacts, leaving you to pay the remaining 20 percent. Note that the national health care program only covers one pair of lenses or glasses under these circumstances.

How do I qualify for coverage?
To qualify for coverage of contact lenses for use after an intraocular lens implant, you must have a prescription for a qualified health care physician who is a part of the Medicare program. The provider must determine that you require vision correction as a cause of the Medicare cataract surgery, and you should make sure that he or she specifies that you need contacts. Otherwise, you may be stuck wearing glasses. Additionally, you must buy your contacts through a provider that is approved by Medicare and accepts assignment from the national health care program.

How do I get conventional contact lenses?
To get contacts, you must get an eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist who will determine the prescription you need. This service is often available at retail eyeglasses stores, and you can typically fill your prescription right there in the premises. Keep in mind that Medicare vision services do not cover the cost of general eye exams, and the cost of an exam and lenses varied greatly by supplier and brand.