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Stop buying overpriced glasses in person

By Sean Willett, March 22, 2016 —

Glasses are a necessity for many University of Calgary students, with prescription lenses partially covered by the student health plan. Yet this coverage means little if students buy overpriced eyewear from the optometrist on campus. 

Every 24 months, students signed up for the Students’ Union health and dental plan receive a $150 credit to be put towards a new pair of prescription glasses. This may sound like a pretty good deal, but anyone who has walked into an eyewear store like the Campus Vision in MacHall knows that $150 isn’t nearly enough.

With a fairly basic frame, prescription glasses can cost over $400 at a brick-and-mortar store — you can expect an even higher price if specialty lenses are required. After factoring in the SU’s credit and the 20 per cent student discount offered at some optometrists, new glasses can still be one of the most expensive purchases a student has to make. But thos doesn’t have to be the case.

Even though there is an eyewear store on campus that takes the SU’s insurance, the $150 credit they offer isn’t limited to their overpriced options. Instead, students can take advantage of online retailers that offer prescription glasses for a fraction of these prices. Websites that specialize in cheap eyewear can offer frames and lenses for as low as $20 — easily affordable even without the SU’s insurance.

With prices like these, students could even spring for some pretty nice frames — I got mine at a high-end online retailer, and even those were easily within $150. Most of these websites also ship their glasses to you within a few days, so it’s hardly less convenient than the alternative.

So why does anyone still buy overpriced glasses in person? Students may not know there are other options after getting their prescription at Campus Vision, or might think that it’s too difficult to apply their SU coverage anywhere else. But the process is actually quite simple — after your eye appointment, simply ask your doctor for a copy of your prescription.

They may put up a fight and offer you a discount, but they will have to give your prescription to you if you ask. After you order your cheap lenses online, all you have to do is fill out a brief insurance claim with the SU. And just like that — free glasses.

While the SU’s health plan is far from perfect, the coverage they offer for glasses is pretty reasonable — as long as you know where to look. Simply stay away from eyewear stores and you won’t be stuck eating ramen for months next time you need a new pair of specs.

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