For many people, an eye exam is a visit to the ophthalmologist (either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist) to get a prescription for glasses or contact lenses.
Ophthalmologistssometimes tell patients that refraction is an essential part of an eye exam, but it's usually not covered by health insurance. An ophthalmologist can also dilate the eye to look for damage to the inner parts of the eye, such as the retina and optic nerve. You get your eyes checked, you choose the frames, and you get the final product in the same place, so you may not realize that you didn't receive a copy of your prescription after the exam.
While some ophthalmologists truly believe that refraction is the best way to detect vision loss, a standard eye exam should include several other tests specifically designed to detect vision problems and eye diseases. Public Citizen advocates for Medicare for All, greater oversight of hazardous physicians, and safe clinical trials. Specially certified opticians can even fit soft contact lenses and adapt them if necessary, and can do the same with hard contact lenses if authorized by your doctor or optometrist. According to the Federal Trade Commission's contact lens and eyeglass rules, contact lens prescriptions must be provided when contact lens placement is completed, and eyeglass prescriptions must be provided at the end of an eye exam, whether you specifically request it or not.
Your eye care professional needs to prescribe your contact lenses for you when you finish the test. Finally, the prescription cannot include any language that says that the eye exam is only necessary for glasses sold by the ophthalmologist's store. Individuals at 1-800-CONTACTS, who have a personal interest in this topic, recently alerted the FTC to several thousand reports that ophthalmologists fail to deliver contact lens prescriptions as required. An optician can prepare and dispense glasses and contact lenses after receiving the prescription given to you by your ophthalmologist or optometrist.
Given the availability of these tests specifically designed to measure vision loss and diagnose eye diseases, patients who can see well without contact lenses or glasses should feel comfortable politely rejecting refraction as an unnecessary service, especially if it requires an additional fee. Your eye professional needs to give you a copy of your prescription, whether or not you order it, glasses, after having an eye exam; and for contact lenses, after the fitting is complete (which may require two visits). The law states that, once your eyes have been examined, you have the right to receive your prescription or a duplicate prescription. Ophthalmologists have found that they can make more money by billing Medicare or other health insurers for an eye exam to detect the disease than if they rely on vision insurance reimbursements, which tend to be lower than health insurance payments.