How Much do Eye Exams Cost?
Vision loss in Canada is a serious issue. With at least 4 in 10 Canadians seeing an eye doctor each year, vision loss is the medical problem with the highest direct cost in Canada. In fact, by 2023, vision loss is expected to cost Canadians over $30 billion.
For children, vision issues are cause for concern with most parents mistakenly believing they could tell if their child had a vision problem and 1 in 4 school-aged children living with an undetected vision issue.
Vision may be a silent problem in Canada, but luckily, the country has universal healthcare. Do you know what is covered in your province? And do you know the procedure to get your eyes checked?
This guide goes into detail about each province’s healthcare program and your vision. Learn about eligibility, how to apply, what is covered and more.
How much is an eye exam?
As a large country, the price of almost anything in Canada widely varies. However, the cheapest eye exam will cost around $75, while a more expensive eye exam in a large city may cost up to $300.
In general, the cost of your eye exam will depend on these factors:
- Location. Like most goods and services, eye exams are more expensive in places where the cost of living is higher. An eye exam in London, Ontario is cheaper than the same eye exam in Toronto.
- New or established patient. Doctors will know your case better if they know you already.
- Frequency. The more preventive you are, the less likely you are to spend.
- Insurance. Naturally, health insurance will lower the cost of eye exams for you.
- Severity. The more serious your condition is, the more likely it is to be delicate and expensive. Rarer issues also tend to cost more.
Good to know
Routine eye exams are fairly inexpensive, ranging around $70 to $90 without insurance and about $10 to $50 with insurance. Routine eye exam prices will vary mostly based on the specific optometrist and location.
A contact lens eye exam is a little more comprehensive than a routine exam as the eye doctor has to scrutinize your eye health and vision before fitting you with adequate lenses. A contact lens eye exam can cost up to $185 without insurance.
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Are eye exams covered by provincial health plans?
Each Canadian province has its own provincial healthcare program. For example, in Ontario, it’s OHIP while AHCIP covers Alberta.
Throughout Canada, provincial healthcare programs vary in their coverage of eye exams. However, medical emergencies are always covered.
For Canadians who fall outside of provincial health coverage, you may have access to Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB). To be eligible, you need to be a resident of Canada and one of the following:
- a First Nations person who is registered under the Indian Act (commonly referred to as Indian status)
- an Inuk recognized by an Inuit land claim organization
- a child under 18 months old whose parent is a registered First Nations person or a recognized Inuk
Corrective eyeglasses and contact lenses are also covered by NIHB if prescribed by an optometrist. The program sometimes also covers repairs to eyeglasses.
Most private health insurance in Canada covers the cost of eye exams and other procedures related to your vision.
How much is an eye exam in Ontario?
The average price range of an eye exam in Ontario is from $50 to more than $250. However, the actual price depends on the specific test and where you go.
Ontario eye exams cost on average lower than many other provinces. In Toronto, an eye exam can cost you up to $250, but in Vancouver, the ceiling goes up to about $310. Montreal eye exams can be even more expensive.
Good to know
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO), the average cost of an eye exam in Canada is $200, making eye exams in Ontario fairly competitive.
However, these prices might not fit all budgets. Luckily, Ontarians have access to the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), which covers a considerable part of essential medical services, including eye care. Many people even have access to free eye exams in Ontario.
Here is what OHIP covers people in the situations below.
- At the most basic level, a routine eye exam every 12 months for people older than 64 and those younger than 20. Any follow-up assessments are also covered.
- If you fall outside of that age range, you still may be eligible for OHIP-covered eye exams in Ontario. People who have a medical condition that affects the eyes are also covered.
- People who have certain medical conditions can also get free eye exams in Ontario. For example, people with diabetes, glaucoma, cataract, amblyopia, corneal disease or strabismus.
Therefore, children's eye exams in Ontario are free, regardless of their health, and the same applies to eye exams for seniors in Ontario. If you are supported by the Ontario Works program and do not have vision care coverage under OHIP, Ontario Works will cover the costs for routine eye exams once every 2 years.
How much is an eye exam in BC?
In British Columbia, the current range for the cost of an eye exam is from around $75 to over $300. The actual cost of an eye exam in BC naturally depends on your location and which tests are conducted during the exam. A contact lens exam, for instance, is usually more expensive because it includes more comprehensive examinations and also a contact lens fitting.
The provincial healthcare plan in BC is the Medical Services Plan (MSP). It covers any expenses related to routine eye examinations for residents aged 65 and over as well as people aged 19 and under. In addition, an eye exam cost in BC is covered by the MSP if it is medically required, meaning you have an ocular trauma, injury or disease, any vision impairment or certain disease that can affect the eyes, such as diabetes.
Some eye exam centres charge hidden, additional fees. Sometimes, patients end up paying unexpected extra fees for minor procedures that were not obvious at the time of booking. Extra charges for additional examinations such as pupillary distance measurement may be uncommon but do occur. Remember to ask exactly what is included in your eye exam and inquire about any additional expenses.
How much is an eye exam in Alberta?
Eye exam cost in Alberta is on the lower end of the Canadian provincial spectrum. The typical cost of an eye exam in Calgary, for example, is around $60 to $80, but it can cost over $160, depending on what specific services are included.
The Albertan provincial healthcare program is the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP), and it covers eye exams for:
- Minors. Until your 18th birthday, AHCIP covers a routine eye exam per year. Additional examination and assessment may also be covered based on medical needs.
- People aged 65+. Renewing every July 1st, people aged 65 and over can get one routine eye exam per year. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, glaucoma and cataract, can also have follow-up and additional monitoring under AHCIP.
- People who need urgent or medically-necessary eye care. In these situations, referrals are not necessary. You can visit any certified optometrist as they often keep timeslots open in their day for urgent cases, from eye infections and injuries to foreign objects in the eyes or sudden changes in vision.
AHCIP does not cover eye exams for:
- People aged 19-64 who do not have a medical necessity for an eye exam. However, many Albertans unknowingly have eye care coverage through their employer’s insurance. It is worth checking whether this applies to you.
How much is an eye exam in Saskatchewan?
In Saskatchewan, routine eye exams cost between $70 and $250, depending on where you live, the complexity of the examination and the provider.
Provincial healthcare coverage in Saskatchewan is offered by the Saskatchewan Health program. Coverage is similar to most other provinces as it includes annual, routine exams for individuals under the age of 18 and eye exams for ocular emergencies. However, older people are not covered by the provincial program.
Where can I get an eye exam?
If you are looking for an eye exam provider near you, there are plenty of options spread all across Canada. Most people might consider optometry clinics or other eye specialists, but there are also alternative companies that offer quick services in convenient locations you already might be going to.
The following options are perfect for busy people looking for simple and quick eye examinations:
Good to know
Although Walmart and Costco offer basic, routine eye exams, LensCrafters offers a slightly more comprehensive service, which explains their increased price.
To schedule an eye exam, simply book an appointment on one of the provider’s websites or take a walk-in appointment on the day you intend to get your eyes examined.
How often should you get an eye exam?
To keep your eyes healthy and your vision as good as possible, you should have a routine eye exam regularly. In Canada, 75% of vision loss is either preventable or treatable, but this only applies if the issue is caught early. With that in mind, here are the recommended intervals at which individuals should get their eyes examined:
|Age||Eye exam frequency|
|Between 2 and 5 years old||At least once|
|Between 6 and 19 years old||Annually|
|Between 20 to 39 years old||Every 2 to 3 years|
|Between 40 to 64 years old||Every 2 years|
|65 and older||Annually|
Eye exams are not only about checking your eyesight. They identify possible health problems that need treatment. For many conditions, early detection is essential to avoid worsening symptoms. If you wait to have symptoms, it might already be late as many eye problems are only detectible in the early stages through an eye exam.
How long does an eye exam take?
A routine eye exam can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on a variety of factors. If you are a returning customer and don’t have any alarming symptoms, then your exam shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes, but certain procedures are more time-consuming. For example, if the optometrist has to dilate your pupils, the appointment will probably take closer to an hour. Similarly, anything related to contact lenses also takes longer.
Booking your appointment in advance skips the initial, bureaucratic steps of almost any health-related appointment, saving you precious minutes.
Are eyeglasses covered by provincial health plans?
Provincial healthcare programs mostly do not cover prescription eyeglasses. However, some provinces include coverage for eyeglasses in very specific cases. For example, older Albertans with more moderate incomes may qualify for coverage and, in Saskatchewan, children enrolled in the Family Health Benefits program have limited coverage for basic eyeglasses. Meanwhile, OHIP offers no coverage for prescription eyeglasses.
Most private health insurance providers do, on the other hand, cover eyeglasses. It might be worth having a look as private plans are often inexpensive and worth it in the long run.
Is cataract surgery covered by provincial health plans?
As the most commonly performed medical procedure in Canada, cataract surgery is covered under every provincial and territorial health insurance program. Cataract surgery is considered a medical necessity, which explains why it’s covered.
This is great news for those suffering from this vision-impairing condition, but it also can mean long waiting times. The national benchmark for waiting times for Cataract surgery is within 112 days, or almost 4 months. However, no Canadian province accomplishes the benchmark in 100% of its cases. The province with the shortest waiting times for cataract surgery is British Columbia, with 76% of patients receiving surgery within the benchmark, while the longest waiting times come from Prince Edward Island.
Are eye exams tax-deductible in Canada?
In all of Canada’s provinces, appointments with the optometrist can be claimed as medical expenses, so eye exams are tax-deductible. Note that eye exams should generally be performed by optometrists
Good to know
Optometrists examine and diagnose their patients’ eyes, while opticians only fit eyeglasses and contact lenses and ophthalmologists are eye doctors who perform medical and surgical treatments for eye conditions.