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Does Medicare Cover Cataract Surgery in 2020?

Reviewed and Updated by Kelsey Davis,

Surgeons perform more than 3.8 million cataract procedures every year in the United States. As you age, your risk of developing cataracts increases. Approximately half of all Americans will develop cataracts by age 75.

Before factoring in health care coverage, cataract surgery can cost $3,700 to $7,000 per eye. If you have one of the millions of cases of cataracts, you may wonder, “Does Medicare cover cataract surgery and implants?” Yes. Medicare covers these costs for qualified Medicare beneficiaries.

How Much Does Medicare Pay for Cataract Surgery?

Original Medicare (Part A or Part B) generally* does not include vision coverage. However, cataract surgery is an exception. Medicare Part B covers basic lens implants and cataract removal.

If your provider recommends an advanced lens implant, you may need to pay some or all of the additional costs. It’s essential to talk with your doctor to get a clear understanding of the necessary procedure.

*Medicare Part A may cover emergency services in a hospital.

Medicare Part D, which is the prescription drug plan, may cover any prescription medications you need after you have had your cataract surgery. 

Incidentally, any medications you need before surgery, such as prescription eye drops, will be covered by Medicare Part B. Part B will also cover eyeglasses or a set of contact lenses for cataract surgery that implants monofocal intraocular lenses (IOL).

Since Part D has no deductibles, you may be responsible for a specified copayment amount that you must pay when you get your prescription drugs.

What Type of Cataract Surgery Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare covers two types of surgery: manual blade surgery and laser surgery.

Medicare will also pay for an intraocular lens (IOL), which corrects presbyopia or astigmatism, but only if these lenses should be replaced because of cataracts.

Does Medicare Pay for Laser Cataract Surgery?

Medicare coverage for cataract surgery doesn’t depend on the surgical method. Medicare will cover 80% of the cataract removal and basic lens whether the procedure is conventional or bladeless with a computer-controlled laser. Similar to conventional surgery, laser surgery requires you to pay the additional costs if you require an advanced lens.

Does Medicare Pay for Cataract Surgery With Astigmatism?

Since you can correct astigmatism with glasses, Medicare will only cover a cataract surgery with astigmatism if the cataract surgery itself is considered necessary. If this is the case, Medicare will pay for the cataract surgery.

Does Medicare Cover Glasses or Contacts?

For the most part, Medicare does not cover routine vision care, glasses, or contact lenses. However, Medicare can make an exception

You may be wondering, “How much does Medicare pay for glasses after cataract surgery?” After your surgery, Medicare will cover 80% of the costs for prescription glasses or contacts, but you must purchase them through a provider who accepts Medicare assignment.

You will be responsible for the remaining 20%. Some beneficiaries have trouble getting Medicare to cover the pair of glasses or contacts.

If you are denied coverage, you can appeal the decision and request that they are covered. If you already paid for them out of your own pocket, you can request reimbursement.

You and your health provider can write a letter to add to your appeal, just be sure to state that you had met the requirements for cataract surgery, so your glasses or contacts must be covered.

What Is the Average Cost of Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery can range from $3,800 to $7,000 per eye without a health insurance plan. For standard cataract surgery, the average cost is $3,700.

However, the average cost of astigmatism-correcting surgery is $5,000, and presbyopia-correcting is about $7,000.

What does Medicare pay toward cataract surgery? It depends on the Medicare plan you are enrolled in. If you are only enrolled in Original Medicare, you will need to pay a 20% coinsurance and your Medicare Part B deductible, which is $185 in 2019.

You may be able to get even more coverage through a Medicare Supplement plan (Medigap) or Medicare Advantage plan. Additionally, because cataracts cloud the eye lens, eye surgery is classified as a medical condition.

This means that Medicaid could also pay some of your cataract surgery costs. 

How to Find a Cataract Surgeon Who Accepts Medicare

Ophthalmologists are eye doctors who specialize in vision correction and care. Many times your ophthalmologist will perform your cataract surgery. 

Since not every ophthalmologist will accept Medicare Advantage and you may not want to go through the trouble of finding another healthcare provider, then ask your health insurance provider to give you a Medicare eye doctor list. 

However, it may be a little more difficult to find a cataract surgeon who accepts Medicare in 2020 because the physician fee schedule has changed since last year. Eye surgeons have had to take a 15% cut in reimbursement compared to Medicare coverage for cataract surgery in 2019.

So another option is to use the Medicare.gov’s physician compare tool to help you find an eye surgeon who accepts Medicare.

Click here to get started. First you’ll come to the physician finder tool. Enter your zip code in the search bar beside the red arrow. We used 37209, which is our corporate offices’ zip code in Nashville, TN.

Then type “ophthalmology” in the search bar above the green arrow. Then click “Search” beside the yellow arrow.

Then you’ll come to a list of ophthalmologists who currently accept Medicare. Use the contact info to call different doctors to find the right fit.

Medicare Requirements for Cataract Surgery

Your vision must be 20/40 or worse to qualify for surgery. Your doctor will need to document that your vision is at this level or lower.

You also need to have difficulty completing daily living activities like reading, sewing, watching television, or driving.

It’s important to remember that the cloudiness in your eye is not directly correlated to the severeness of your cataracts. If you are unsure of your vision level or whether or not you qualify, visit your eye doctor.

Cataract Surgery and Medicare Supplements

Medicare Supplements work alongside Original Medicare and are a great way to add financial benefits to your current coverage. They can help cover your 20% coinsurance and your Medicare Part B deductible.

Plan F is currently the only plan that covers your Part B deductible.

However, Plan F was discontinued in 2020. If you enrolled in it before the start of 2020 you are locked into this plan and will maintain coverage. If you are interested in enrolling in Medicare Supplement Plans, fill out this form or give us a call at 833-438-3676.

Cataract Surgery and Medicare Advantage

Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover, at a minimum, the same as Original Medicare. However, MA plans offer several additional benefits like prescription drug coverage, hearing and dental coverage, group fitness classes like SilverSneakers, and additional vision coverage.

Benefits will vary by plan but can include routine eye exams, eyeglasses, contacts, frames, and fittings. These benefits allow you to check your vision each year and update your prescription, lenses, and frames as needed.

If you are only enrolled in Original Medicare, you will need to pay for these expenses out of your own pocket.

What Are Cataracts?

Our eyes have a lens that works much like a camera. The lens bends light so you can see your surroundings.

A cataract makes that clear lens cloudy, and it can be more difficult to read or drive a car.

What Causes Cataracts?

Most of the time, cataracts develop with age, or when an injury changes your eye’s lens. As you age, the lens can become stiffer, thicker, and less transparent.

Sometimes genetic disorders, other eye conditions, medical conditions such as diabetes, or past eye surgery can contribute to cataract development. Other causes can be long-term steroid medication use.

Cataract Symptoms

According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of cataracts can include: 

  • Cloudy, blurry or dim vision
  • Increasing difficulty seeing at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescription
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision in one eye

How Do You Know If You Need Cataract Surgery?

Talk to your doctor if you experience any changes to your vision such as cloudiness or halos around lights. According to Harvard University, you should have an eye exam every year if you’re 65 or older. 

Dr. Laura Fine, an ophthalmologist with Massachusetts General Hospital, says you don’t need cataract surgery until you think you need to see better. 

Learn More About Medicare and Cataract Surgery

A licensed agent with Medicare Plan Finder may be able to find plans in your area that fit your budget and lifestyle needs. 

Are you interested in learning about available plans in your area? Fill out this form or give us a call at 844-431-1832 to schedule a no-cost, no obligation appointment with a licensed agent.

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