Eye News Volume I Issue 20
by James S. Lewis, MD
In my opinion, this is the result of a LASIK price so low it makes quality care impossible. iHateMyglasses.com has always charged $2500.00 for both eyes, lifetime enhancements, and a year of post-operative examinations. This cost allows us to provide excellent staff, state-of-the-art equipment, and top surgical talent. We know we couldn’t have charged less without cutting corners. While I am Medical Director, that just isn’t going to happen.
I welcome the help insurance companies can provide but I worry they will fall victim to the same problems that befell those now defunct LASIK companies. Worse, they may be forced to restrict patient choice in order to compete for corporate contracts.
In my experience, LASIK patients are highly motivated, well informed, and driven to find the best doctor, the best staff, and the best equipment available.
I have researched the experiences in South Carolina, Idaho, North Carolina, and South Carolina involving independent Blue Cross companies. In most cases, exclusive arrangements were made. Patients could not choose their doctor, they could not select their laser, and they could not select the location for their care.
Many of the exclusive arrangements were made with corporations who used lasers that were transported daily by truck. These extremely delicate machines would arrive at a specific location once a week or once a month for surgery. Often a small group of surgeons provided care for an entire state.
Employers who were generous enough to offer this “rider” in their Blue Cross policies may not have realized what they were getting for their employees.
In my experience, patients go to a LASIK provider based on reputation, experience, community standing, and references from family, friends, and co-workers. This can not occur when Blue Cross or any other insurance company makes exclusive contracts with corporations.
Joseph Bilson, Director of the Wills Eye Surgical Network told me he was asked by Independence Blue Cross to charge their patients half his established price. “I sent them packing”, he told me by phone. Mr. Bilson and the Wills Eye Surgical Network have a strong commitment to quality care in LASIK and all areas of Ophthalmology.
Another internationally known LASIK provider was approached by Blue Cross. Reputedly, he politely showed them the exit.
Employers can best help employees who desire LASIK by encouraging flexible medical savings accounts or providing credit or loan programs.
When it comes to LASIK, patients know there are differences among surgeons, equipment, and staff. When an insurance company or employer provides benefits to retain and attract outstanding personnel they must recognize the importance of choice.
I have spent the last six weeks trying to speak with someone in authority at Blue Cross. Only today was I allowed to speak with Dr. Kerr, National Director of Network Services. He was unable to shed additional light on their plans.
I recommend all patients contact their insurance company and their benefits counsellor.
When the Ophthalmologists in Tennessee exposed the facts to their political leaders, Blue Cross withdrew from its participation in LASIK entirely. We can learn something here.
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Dr. Lewis has dedicated his career to helping patients from throughout the greater Philadelphia area realize their vision correction goals. He offers LASIK in Philadelphia and is also renowned as one of the most experienced Philadelphia and Bucks County Epi-LASIK surgeons. In addition, Dr. Lewis specializes in implantation of advanced collamer lenses, such as Visian ICLs in Philadelphia.