July 17, 2024
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Which Eye Care Practitioner Should I See: An Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist?

If your eyes are healthy and don’t require surgical treatment, the type of doctor you need is a primary eye care practitioner (optometrist).

Optometrists and ophthalmologists both perform routine eye exams and both types of eye doctors are trained to detect, diagnose and manage eye diseases such as pink eye, floaters and glaucoma.

In many cases, care for a specific eye problem may be provided by an optometrist and an ophthalmologist working as a team. This arrangement is called co-management.

In co-management, your primary care eye doctor (usually an optometrist) refers you to a specialist (usually an ophthalmologist) for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan. The ophthalmologist may choose to manage the problem medically, perform eye surgery or both. After the condition is controlled or surgically treated, the specialist then sends you back to your primary eye care doctor, who continues to monitor and treat your condition or perform post-operative care based on the specialist’s recommendations.

Co-management is a particularly good solution if you are very pleased with the quality of eye care you are receiving from your primary eye care provider but you need to have a specific medical eye condition treated by a specialist.

Vision Insurance vs. Medical Insurance and
Your Choice of Eye Doctor

If you have vision insurance or a health insurance policy that covers eye care, one factor in choosing an eye doctor is determining if he or she is an authorized provider under your insurance plan, and what your out-of-pocket expense will be for the exam.

Typically you can get this information by calling the doctor’s office and giving them your insurance information. Many insurance companies also post on their websites a directory of eye doctors who accept their vision plans.

Most optometrists and ophthalmologists who provide medical eye care accept medical insurance for your eyecare needs. However, be careful because some practitioners do not accept vision insurance for eye health needs. That falls under your medical eye insurance!

If you have Medicare coverage and are just getting a routine eye exam to have your eyes checked and your glasses prescription updated, payment for the exam will be your responsibility unless you also have a private vision insurance policy that covers routine exams. But if you are eligible for Medicare and you have a pre-existing eye problem such as cataracts or macular degeneration, part of your comprehensive eye exam may be covered. Ask your eye doctor for details.

Also, when calling an eye doctor’s office, ask how they handle insurance claims. Will you have to pay for the exam and then submit the claim to your insurance company yourself, or will the eye doctor’s office bill your insurance company for the exam so no payment is required of you?

If you don’t have an insurance policy that covers eye care, find out the eye doctor’s fee for a routine exam and for any special testing that may be required. While you don’t want to choose an eye doctor based on cost alone, it is a factor to consider.

Other Factors When Choosing an Eye Doctor

When inquiring about the services an eye doctor provides, ask what happens if a problem is detected that requires treatment beyond the doctor’s scope of care. Which medical and surgical specialists do they refer to, and where are they located?

Finally, a major factor you should consider when choosing an eye doctor is the recommendation of that doctor by friends, family members or coworkers. Word-of-mouth referrals often are the best way to find a friendly, competent and caring eye doctor and avoid unpleasant surprises when you go to have your eyes examined.


Dr. Maty Youngewirth is a medically trained optometrist with over 20 years’ experience treating patients. She takes her time with each of her patients to get to know them and tailor a customized treatment plan just for them. She is extremely attentive and sensitive to her patients’ needs and responds quickly to solve their concerns. Ready to book an eye exam? Call or text 917-548-5083.

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