A comprehensive eye exam can reveal meaningful insights about your eye health and overall well-being. By prioritizing regular eye exams, you can maintain healthy vision for years to come.
As an Ontario resident, you may wonder if you are eligible for a free eye exam through the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP does cover the cost of many health services, including some eye care services, for eligible Ontario residents.
While OHIP does not cover the cost of eye exams for everyone, it does cover the cost of an eye exam every 12–18 months for some Ontarians, including children, seniors, and those with certain medical conditions.
What Does OHIP Cover?
OHIP is a provincially funded healthcare plan for eligible residents of Ontario. While it does cover a variety of important medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and some diagnostic tests, it’s important to note that OHIP coverage for eye care is limited. As of September 1, 2023, OHIP covers the following eye care services:
- An eye exam every 12 months, plus any minor appointments for children (19 years and younger)
- An eye exam every 12 months, plus 2 follow-up appointments for adults (20 to 64 years old) who have certain medical conditions
- An eye exam every 12 months, plus 2 follow-up appointments for seniors with certain potentially sight-threatening conditions (65 years and older)
- An eye exam every 18 months, plus 2 follow-up appointments for seniors without sight-threatening conditions (65 years and older)
- Exams that are requested by your doctor for a specific reason, with a referral
Children’s Eye Exams
Routine eye exams can play an important role in healthy childhood development. The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that infants have their first exam between the ages of 6 and 9 months, and at least 1 exam between the ages of 2 and 5 years. These initial exams can help monitor early eye development and coordination, and screen for conditions such as amblyopia or strabismus.
Once children enter school, it’s recommended that they have yearly eye exams, which OHIP does provide coverage for. The classroom can be a visually demanding environment, and an estimated 25% of school-age children live with an undetected vision problem that is impacting their learning. During these key developmental years, it’s also more common for us to experience frequent vision changes. Given all of these factors, you can begin to understand why children’s eye care is so important.
Senior Eye Exams
It’s normal to experience vision changes as we get older. In addition to regular vision changes, seniors are also at a higher risk of developing a range of potentially vision-threatening conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. In many cases, routine eye exams play a key role in diagnosing and monitoring these conditions. Fortunately, OHIP does cover the cost of a yearly eye exam and follow-up visits for eligible seniors.
Medically Necessary Eye Exams
While OHIP does not cover eye exams for most adults, there is an exception for adults living with certain medical conditions. Covered conditions include a range of eye-related and general health conditions, which may require regular monitoring through a yearly eye exam.
- Retinal disease
- Corneal disease
- Optic nerve pathway disease
- Patients taking certain medications
- Sudden onset of strabismus
In addition to a yearly eye exam, OHIP will cover the cost of 2 follow-up appointments related to the covered medical condition. OHIP may also cover the cost of an eye exam for individuals who would not otherwise be covered if it has been requested for a specific reason by their doctor.
What Does OHIP Not Cover?
While OHIP does cover some eye care services, it’s important to keep in mind that this coverage is not comprehensive. Perhaps most notably, OHIP does not cover the cost of any eye exams for adults (19 to 64 years old) who do not have 1 of the aforementioned medical conditions.
Regular eye exams are vital for maintaining good eye health and preventing potential vision problems at any age. Even if you don’t fall within the age groups covered by OHIP for eye exams, it’s recommended that adults aged 20 to 64 have their eyes examined at least once every 2 years.
The Importance of Comprehensive Vision Care
In most cases, OHIP only covers the cost of a basic eye exam that does not include important health screening tests such as retinal imaging or OCT scans. These advanced tests can play an essential role in diagnosing and monitoring potentially serious conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
OHIP also does not cover specialty eye care services, such as corneal topography for contact lens wearers or dry eye diagnosis and therapy. While these exams may not be covered by OHIP, they can still play an essential role in your vision care.
Alternatives to OHIP Coverage
For those not covered by OHIP, it may be worthwhile to explore alternative options for eye care coverage. This may include employer benefits, private insurance, or other government programs such as the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works.
Your Eye Care Partner in Ontario
At Eye Wellness, we believe in a holistic approach to eye care that prioritizes preventive care and health education. We’re proud to offer our patients comprehensive eye care services, including eye exams for the whole family. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment.