Is a Low Cost Provider the Best Choice for LASIK

Picking a LASIK surgeon is never easy.  It is a monumental decision in your life. You might see an advertisement for Lasik at $499 per eye. Nearly every large city has a discount laser eye-surgery company that sets itself up as the low price provider.  The price is usually listed at 25% of the going rate for the established experienced surgeons.

Many people will pick a LASIK surgeon based on cost alone. Others might pick the most expensive surgeon, assuming that a higher price equals a better surgeon. Some will pick the cheapest surgeon, assuming that all surgeons are basically the same. Both of these methods are wrong. The cheapest surgeon is almost never the best surgeon. The most expensive surgeon might possibly be the best but a higher price does not always correlate with better surgical skill. Prices are based on overhead, demand, and marketing strategies. A high price might simply mean an expensive business model. You might be paying for the expensive rent of the location, the high volume of advertising, poor business decisions, or the inflated ego of the surgeon. If you are paying for high quality equipment, well-trained staff, a skilled surgeon in high demand, or regular maintenance of the facilities, then your money is certainly well-spent.

The difference between the highest prices and the lowest might be as much as $3,000 per eye or more.  Representatives of the low cost LASIK providers will emphasize that they have a higher volume and therefore the other providers are simply overpriced.

In 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration posted an online statement warning LASIK consumers to beware of Lasik deals that seemed too good to be true.  Most discount LASIK providers are averaging more than $2,000 per eye but they overcome the advertised prices through bait-and-switch and markups.  If you want a newer laser, then you pay more.  If you want intralase (if it is even available), then you pay more.  If you have even a little astigmatism (which nearly everyone does), then you pay more.  If you have more than just a mild near-sightedness, again you must pay more.

LASIK centers close annually because of poor reputation and poor business practices, especially during the current recession.  A discount provider cares little for its reputation and is therefore less interested in providing good service or long-term care.  Mismanaged patients and those who suffer complications will rarely receive good treatment and are often sent to other LASIK providers to fix the mistakes.  The follow-ups are often more expensive than the surgery would have been originally.

I spoke with one patient who had LASIK at a low cost surgery center and had an unfortunate result.  The surgery cost him half as much as it would normally cost but he was then forced to seek a referral to a more experienced surgeon with better equipment.  The follow-up visits ended up costing him twice as much as he would have paid if he had went to that experienced surgeon to begin with.  After having retreatment with a better laser and better flap making tools, the patient was much improved but the results will certainly never be as good as if the patient had went to the better facility to begin with.

They say that there are two things that you should never try to find the lowest price for.  Parachutes and LASIK.