By Vin Dang, OD, FAAO
All dry eye therapies have a cost. In-office microblepharoexfoliation procedures, such as BlephEx or ZEST (Zocular Eyelid System Technology), can range from $160-$350 per treatment depending on the office. Thermal treatment costs vary as well, and are typically even higher.
Most dry eye treatment procedures are not currently covered by insurance, and are considered a shared cost. Patients usually assume insurance will automatically cover these services because you have diagnosed them with dry eye, which is a medical condition, but that is often not the case. Yet these are important procedures for a patient diagnosed with dry eye.
Patients Have More than One Way to Access Treatment
Patients have the freedom, depending on their insurance selection, to use financial instruments such as a flex spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA) to pay for their treatments. These financial instruments enable medical procedures to be paid in full with banked pre-tax dollars. Usually these plans require some form of itemized documentation detailing the procedure and cost to allow for reimbursement.
It is important to impress upon your patient the benefits of treating early in the disease process and potential for repeated in-office procedures in order to plant the seeds for financial-planning purposes. By taking a proactive approach, these procedures are more effective and will minimize the risk of long-term damage, which would cost significantly more to treat.
Another option for patients in participating practices, who qualify, is spacing payments for the procedure out over time with patient financing through the CareCredit credit card. This is an option we give patients in our office that has done wonders for making essential dry eye treatments viable for many more patients.
Don’t Shy Away from the Cost Conversation
I discuss the cost of the procedure with my patient at the end of the examination. I do not shy away from telling them the prescribed procedure is what is best for treating their condition. Similar to when we prescribe polarized sunglasses or blue light blocking lenses for digital device use, I recommend what is best for the patient and allow them the ability to make a shared medical decision.
Invariably, after discussing treatment options, I find a patient will ask me what they should do. At that point, you have earned your patient’s trust and they will likely follow your recommendations.
For example, keeping affordability in mind, I might suggest that Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) can be broken down into a pay schedule per treatment or a total amount for all recommended sessions. If they do pay upfront, they can qualify for a discount per treatment, which helps reduce the overall cost to the patient. The typical out-of-pocket cost for each IPL treatment is $300-$500.
IPL treatment usually involves a series of 4-8 treatments. The total cost could be prohibitive to some patients. However, patient financing options can help make these treatments easier and more affordable.
Dry Eye Is a Medically Important Procedure–Cost Should Never Be a Deterrent to Treatment
After I have educated my patient on the treatments required to manage their condition, I walk them over to our patient coordinator. I hand the patient 1-2 pamphlets about the recommended procedures while we walk. Physically having something in-hand solidifies that what they have is important enough to provide documentation that can be reviewed at their leisure from the comfort of their own home.
At our practice, our patient coordinator arranges payment and scheduling along with answering any remaining questions. The coordinator goes over the estimated out-of-pocket cost for each of the different procedures. The patient coordinator also reiterates what the doctor prescribed.
The science indicates that for a person to act on a message they hear, they must hear it 14 times. This is called effective frequency. I try to express the gravity of the patient’s situation multiple times to engage them in their care.
Use of the CareCredit credit card in our office enables many patients to follow my dry eye treatment plan. It can be used for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by medical insurance to help patients receive the treatment they need with the added benefit of special financing options, allowing the patient to pay over time for treatment. If the patient still declines, schedule a one-month follow-up appointment with the doctor to continue treatment, check on progress, and make sure the patient is not lost to follow-up.
When patients both fully understand the need for treatment, and have tools like financing options, they are hard pressed to say no to a treatment that can change their life for the better.
Click HERE, or the image below, to learn how Dr. Dang ensures treatment compliance and commitment from patients he has diagnosed with dry eye disease.
Vin Dang, OD, FAAO, practices at Empire Eye & Laser Center in Bakersfield, Calif.