Explore Health Insurance

Want to see life’s little details without relying on your glasses or contact lenses? Well, laser eye surgery might be your ticket to clear vision.

We break down what laser surgery is, how much it costs, and whether Medicare and private health insurance covers this type of surgery.

What is laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a medical procedure where a specialist eye doctor (an ophthalmic surgeon or ophthalmologist) uses a computer-controlled excimer laser to reshape the surface of your eye to correct or improve eyesight issues, like:

  • short-sightedness (also called myopia), where the eye doesn’t focus light correctly, making distant objects look blurred;1
  • long-sightedness (also called hyperopia), where you can see objects in the distance better than closeup objects;2 and
  • astigmatism, where the front surface of your eye is more oblong than round, resulting in blurred vision.3

According to the Australian Government’s health resource, healthdirect, laser eye surgery may also be used to treat conditions like health-related eye diseases and some cases of age-related macular degeneration (the term macular refers to the part of the retina at the back of your eye).4

Who’s suitable for laser eye?

healthdirect says you typically need to:

  • be over 18
  • have a normal cornea (e.g. not thin or abnormally shaped cornea)
  • not suffer from very dry eyes
  • not have any condition that affects healing
  • have a stable prescription – not one that changes often
  • not have an autoimmune disease
  • avoid activities that pose a risk to your eyes (e.g. contact sports for some types of laser eye surgeries, which we touch on below).5

Types of laser eye surgeries

Laser eye surgery is an umbrella term used to describe types of laser eye surgeries – each of which features different treatment techniques and may better suit certain eye conditions.

Depending on your treatment, the surgery itself may take around 10-20 minutes per eye.

LASIK eye surgery

LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) eye surgery is where a surgeon uses a laser to create a thin flap of superficial cornea, which they will then fold back. Then, the surgeon uses the laser to reshape your cornea to treat your eye issue. Afterwards, the surgeon places the cornea flap back down, which adheres itself naturally.

This type of treatment is helpful for those with short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism. If your surgeon deems your corneas too thin or too irregularly shaped, you may not be suitable for LASIK.

PRK eye surgery

During PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), the surgeon removes the layer of cells covering your cornea. The surgeon then uses the laser to reshape your cornea to correct your eye condition. The surgeon will then place a type of bandage content lens to your eye to help it heal.

PRK is typically used to treat short and long-sightedness as well as astigmatism. Your surgeon might also recommend PRK if your corneas are unusually shaped, or if you suffer from dry eyes.

SMILE eye surgery

SMILE (small incision lenticular extraction) eye surgery is where the surgeon creates a lenticule – a tissue disc – inside your cornea. The surgeon then removes this disc through a tiny incision in your cornea. This bladeless procedure might suit patients who have been told they aren’t suitable for LASIK. The quicker cornea healing time also means you may be able to return to certain activities, like contact sports, sooner.

This type of surgery isn’t, at the time of writing, suitable treatment for long-sightedness.

ICL eye surgery

During ICL (implantable collamer – or contact – lens) eye surgery, a surgeon makes a small incision in the surface of your eye before they insert a soft lens behind your iris (which sits in front of your natural lens). The opening in your cornea will seal on its own.

The lens is designed to remain in your eye, but you can have a surgeon remove it if you wish.

This type of surgery may be useful for those who aren’t suitable for other types of laser eye surgeries. You might find that surgeons recommend ICL eye surgery if you have a high prescription or an abnormally shaped or thin cornea.

Your surgeon will tell you which type of surgery best suits your eyes and condition. Some surgeons might even recommend against surgery if they think that’s the best option for you.

How much does laser eye surgery cost in Australia?

The cost of laser eye surgery depends on the type of treatment you’re having. To give you an idea of how much you might pay for each type of treatment, we’ve looked at several Australian clinics and provided price ranges based on our findings.

Keep in mind that the below prices are a guide only; they are subject to change, and your treatment can fall outside of these dollar ranges, depending on your circumstances and your surgeon.

Laser eye surgery cost in Australia
Type of laser eye surgeryPotential cost range per eye
LASIK$2,200 – $3,400
PRK$2,400 – $3,400
SMILE$3,300 – $3,700
ICL$4,700 – $6,200

Other laser eye surgery costs to be aware of

Aside from the cost of your surgery, you may need to pay for other costs, like your:

  • initial consultation. Some practices offer a free consultation to gauge your eligibility for laser eye surgery. Others may charge a fee for this;
  • aftercare follow-up appointments. After your surgery, you’ll typically need to go back to the clinic to ensure your eyes are healing well and to ask any questions you may have. You may need to visit the day after surgery, as well a few months down the track; and
  • enhancement surgery. After your surgery, you may require an enhancement surgery to fine-tune your vision. This surgery may come at an extra cost to you. As such, it’s a good idea to ask your surgeon the likelihood of you needing enhancement surgery.

Some laser eye clinics offer packages, where the surgery itself and other related costs (e.g. follow-up appointments) are included in the price they quote you. Sometimes, the quoted figure doesn’t account for other necessary expenses.

Read through these helpful questions to ask before you book treatment.

Is laser eye surgery covered by Medicare?

No, Medicare doesn’t typically cover laser eye surgery. Medicare considers this type of surgery as cosmetic (i.e. you want to remove your need for glasses). However, if you have a certain eye disease and require medically necessary treatment, the cost of your surgery may be covered or subsidised.

If your doctor says you require medically necessary treatment, ask them if Medicare will subsidise your treatment and if any expenses you incur will be covered.

Does private health insurance cover laser eye surgery?

Hospital policies don’t cover laser eye surgeries – though, some policies provide cover for treatment of medically necessary surgery, like cataract removal.

Top-level extras policies may offer some cover towards laser eye surgery. However, you’ll need to check with your insurer to see how much of the costs will be covered by your policy.

Is laser eye surgery worth it in the longer term?

The best way to know if laser eye surgery is worth it long term is to compare the costs you’d spend on glasses and/or contact lenses against total treatment costs.

To give you an idea of how you might like to weigh up costs, check out our example below.

Example: Cost of glasses and contacts vs LASIK eye surgery

man-with-contact-lenses

Jeremy wears one-use soft contact lenses when he’s not wearing his prescription glasses. Each year, he purchases three packs of 90 lenses, which equates to around $300. He also spends about $36 on eyedrops over a year that he uses while he’s wearing his contact lenses.

So, Jeremy spends about $360 on contacts products each year.

He also wears prescription glasses and tends to purchase a new pair every two years at around $150 each time.

Jeremy’s also been weighing up LASIK eye surgery costs against the cost of his glasses and contacts. After a consultation where he was quoted $5,600 for both of his eyes, he starts crunching the numbers.

He realises that over 13 years, he would spend more in glasses and contacts combined ($5,655) than the cost of LASIK.

Jeremy would prefer to see clearly without the hassle of contact lenses or glasses, so he feels the upfront cost of surgery is worth it in the long-term for his circumstances.

Where do you go for laser eye surgery?

You typically go to a private laser eye clinic for treatment. Your eye doctor may recommend or even refer you to one. Before booking in treatment, you might like to call up and visit a few clinics and compare your options and surgeons’ opinions.

Questions to ask before you have laser eye surgery

To help ensure you understand a little more about what you can expect from your surgery, both for treatment and costs, it’s a good idea to ask as many questions as you can. Some of these include:

  • what are the risks involved in the treatment;
  • how much will the treatment cost me (including all appointments, medication and potential enhancement treatment);
  • how long will it take for me to recover;
  • will I experience any side effects? If so, what;
  • will I need to wear glasses or contacts after my surgery;
  • will I need to rely on medication long-term after the surgery (i.e. eye drops);
  • can I go about my usual day-to-day activities after surgery;
  • what can’t I do after the surgery; and
  • what’s not included in the quote you’ve provided me?

Do you have an extras policy? Check with your insurer before booking your appointment to see if they’ll provide any cover towards laser eye surgery.

If your extras policy doesn’t include cover for laser surgery, you might want to find one that does – at a price that’s kind to your budget. Try comparing extras policies through our free comparison tool where, in minutes, you can compare policy cover and premiums from some of Australia’s top insurers.

Note: Background information about laser eye surgery is based on information from Queensland Laser Vision, Vision Eye Institute, New Vision Clinics, George St Eye Centre, Lasik.com.au and Sydney Eye Institute. Information accessed January 2020.

Sources

Sources

[1] healthdirect. ‘Short-sightedness (myopia)’. Last reviewed September 2019. Accessed 23 January 2020.

[2] healthdirect. ‘Long-sightedness (hyperopia). Last reviewed September 2019. Accessed 23 January 2020.

[3] healthdirect. ‘Astigmatism’. Last reviewed September 2019. Accessed 23 January 2020.

[4] healthdirect. ‘Laser eye surgery’. Last reviewed January 2018. Accessed 23 January 2020.

[5] Ibid.

So, what are you waiting for?

Compare health insurance
Or call us on 1800 304 709