Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cost of LASIK Eye Surgery

Average LASIK Costs A report commissioned by from a leading industry analyst in 2008 listed average LASIK costs as: * $2,105 for all laser-based vision correction procedures in which a single price is quoted. * $1,662 for non-customized LASIK using a bladed instrument (microkeratome) and excimer lasers that are not guided by wavefront analysis. * $2,341 for wavefront-guided LASIK using IntraLase. Note that there can be wide variation in what an advertised price will include. Beware of advertising that, for example, promises "LASIK from $499 per eye." Look for the fine print. Typically, only a few select people are actually eligible for LASIK at prices that sound unusually low, because most eyes require more extensive correction or more follow-up after the surgery. However, the trend in the last year or so has been toward cheaper prices for non-customized LASIK procedures that don't use more expensive options. As an example, a leading industry analyst in 2008 said 11 percent of these procedures cost less than $1,000 per eye during 2007. In the previous year, however, only 6.9 percent of conventional or non-customized LASIK procedures cost less than $1,000 per eye. Non-customized procedures are performed with the less expensive options of bladed microkeratomes and excimer lasers that are not guided by wavefront analysis. Most customized wavefront procedures that also use laser-created flaps (IntraLase) cost from $1,500 to $3,000 per eye (see charts below). Beware of "Bargain" Prices for LASIK When you deal with centers and surgeons that advertise LASIK surgery at bargain prices far below what is mentioned above, you would be wise to ask plenty of questions related to what a procedure actually costs beyond what is advertised. Be sure to ask for an estimate, in writing, that details exactly what you are getting for that low price. As an example, Florida's Attorney General in November 2005 announced a settlement with Lasik Vision Institute for allegedly misrepresenting the actual cost of eye surgeries as stated in the company's advertisements. One dispute in the case involved non-refundable deposits, even when an individual opted not to have surgery. Based on these types of isolated incidents, make sure you clearly know what the total cost of the procedure will or could be, including surgeon and facility fees or any other extras. One advertised price represented as a "bargain" might include those types of extra costs, while another might not. LASIK Prices LASIK prices, after rising for several years, seemed to stabilize from 2006 to 2008. Industry sources report that the average LASIK price in late 2006 was about $1,950. In 2007, LASIK and laser-based procedures charged at a single price (no extra charges added on for new technologies) cost an average of $2,099. And at prices reported in 2008, the average rose only slightly, to $2,105 (see charts below). In comparison, LASIK in 2002 was $1,550-$1,600; by October 2003 it had risen to $1,710; at the end of 2004, it was a little over $1,800; and in 2005 it was $1,965. These averages take into account procedures performed at surgeon-owned laser centers, institutions, and corporate laser centers. Also, keep in mind that earlier prices do not reflect new technologies of wavefront analysis and laser-created flaps, which have been adopted for widespread use only in recent years. A leading multi-center LASIK provider, TLC Laser Eye Centers, reported an average per procedure fee of $2,000 in early 2008, 2007 and 2006. In 2002, the average procedure fee was $1,800. In the fourth quarter of 2004, TLC's average price was $1,957. In 2005 and into 2006, 2007 and 2008, however, it has remained around $2,000. At TLC, an extra charge of $350 to $650 per eye is added for wavefront analysis combined with IntraLase. The company's 2007 annual report released in early 2008 indicated that customized LASIK with IntraLase can cost as much as $2,700 per eye at a TLC center. Another national provider, LasikPlus (LCA-Vision), reported in early 2008 that its per-procedure prices at various centers had increased about 7 percent, from $1,387 in 2006 to $1,481 in 2007 — partly due to the addition of IntraLase in LASIK procedures. Following is a chart of average LASIK prices, per eye, as reported in 2008 by a leading industry analyst. Average LASIK costs 2008, per eye Average LASIK prices rose for several years early in the decade, partly because of demand and an increasing number of LASIK procedures. However, industry reports indicate that the number of LASIK procedures performed annually in the United States has stabilized in the past few years at around 1.4 million. Procedure numbers in 2008 are projected to decline because of a sliding U.S. economy, which might eventually affect pricing as demand decreases. New Technology Increases LASIK Cost You usually can expect higher LASIK prices when you add these two newer options: * "Custom" or "wavefront" LASIK, which is often more expensive than traditional LASIK. (See below for custom LASIK pricing, and refer to our custom wavefront LASIK article for an explanation of the procedure.) * Intralase technology, which increases procedure cost (see charts below). LASIK with IntraLase, a procedure in which the surgeon creates the LASIK flap with a laser rather than a microkeratome, typically costs more than traditional LASIK. IntraLase reported in early 2007 that the average extra cost per eye added onto a LASIK procedure for use of IntraLase was $394. Later in 2007, Advanced Medical Optics acquired IntraLase and incorporated the technology into the company's wavefront-guided excimer laser platform. The total system now is marketed under one name, iLASIK. Those surgeons who use IntraLase to create LASIK flaps cite studies that show patients have fewer flap complications, need fewer retreatments and have a greater likelihood of achieving 20/20 acuity or better. [See also: Blade Versus Bladeless LASIK Debate.] Custom LASIK, which involves using wavefront technology to measure and map the aberrations and vision problems that occur when the eye fails to correctly focus light rays, also usually costs more than traditional LASIK. Some eye surgeons don't charge a separate fee for new technologies used in LASIK, and instead quote their price as a single fee. According to industry sources, about 39.5 percent of LASIK surgeons used a single-price approach as of early 2008. Average LASIK prices, per eye Prices for conventional LASIK with a bladed microkeratome, per eye Prices for wavefront-guided LASIK with IntraLase, per eye We found several sources for pricing information: * In 2008, commissioned a report from a leading industry analyst who found that wavefront LASIK combined with IntraLase costs an average of $2,341, compared with $1,662 for conventional LASIK. This is a price difference of $679 per eye between the two procedures. Note that these prices are slightly lower than those reported the previous year. * A March 2007 TLC Laser Eye Centers report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the company's range of charges was $350 to $500 extra per eye for wavefront analysis (custom LASIK) combined with IntraLase. For a three-month period covering July through September, TLC in its late 2007 quarterly report noted increased refractive surgery center revenues of 13 percent compared with the same three-month period the previous year. The number of procedures grew at a rate of 7 percent during the same time period. The report says the extra increase in revenues was due to people opting for higher-priced procedures during 2007. * TruVision Laser Eye Centers in 2008 advertised conventional LASIK prices starting at $895 per eye. If follow-up eye surgeries known as enhancements are needed, then an extra $110 to $350 fee per eye would be charged. In late 2007, wavefront LASIK was advertised at $1,295 per eye, and bladeless LASIK (IntraLase) was advertised at $1,895 per eye. Prices for Other Types of Eye Surgery Below are typical prices, per eye, for other types of refractive eye surgery. As with LASIK, the prices vary based on many factors, including your individual prescription, where you live, and which surgeon you choose. * CK: $1,500 to $2,900 * PRK, Epi-LASIK and LASEK: about the same as LASIK * Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE): $2,500 to $4,500 per eye or more, depending on extra costs such as facility fees.


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