A woman waving goodbye to dollar bills with wings flying away from her.

Emptying My Wallet to Treat Chronic Dry Eye

I’ll be honest, I’m sitting here worrying about money. Specifically, all the money I’ve spent on dry eye treatment over the past few months. Exciting vacations and travel ideas were on my mind, and there are few things I love more than planning a trip. But that got me looking back at my credit card statements and bank account. Between the usual expenses—groceries, gas, the light bill—all the charges for out-of-pocket dry eye treatments stood out. It really adds up.

Dry eye and insurance coverage

I started out very determined to do everything I could to halt the progress of my chronic dry eye, but it wasn’t long before I discovered that many of the best treatments are not covered by insurance. Lipiflow, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), and meibomian gland probing have all been around for years, but for some reason insurance almost never covers these treatments, even after FDA approval.

Here’s a summary of major treatments I’ve had to pay out of pocket for:

  • IPL treatment: $350 per session (4 sessions recommended)
  • Meibomian gland expression: $50 per treatment
  • Meibomian gland probing: $500 per eye

These are just the prices I’ve paid in my area. I’ve heard prices for these treatments elsewhere with more prominent doctors that are twice as much for IPL and 10 times as much for probing. And I'm not even counting all the over-the-counter drops and devices I've tried--those add up too!

I honestly don’t know what I would do if this had happened to me when I was younger, when I didn’t have any savings. That is what I’m dipping into now because my eyes and vision are so important to me.

Helpful options

I suppose one of the options I would have considered is the CareCredit card, which I used several years ago when I needed major dental work. That spread the payments out over time so they were more manageable. More likely, I would have just decided to put off treatment, taking the risk of it worsening and dealing with the discomfort.

Thankfully, insurance at least covers my prescription eye drops and Tyrvaya nasal spray. The out-of-pocket cost of Xiidra is over $600 and Tyrvaya is over $700. So in other words, if my insurance had refused to cover those I might have been looking at an extra rent or mortgage payment every single month, just to get the treatment my dry eye doctor prescribed.

Actually I remember the first time I had my Xiidra prescription filled. It popped up as over $300 at the pharmacy register, but my doctor had given me a special coupon card that brought it down to just $10. That coupon has continued to work since then, and it’s available to many folks on insurance.

Tyrvaya was a similar scare, and I actually prepared myself for my insurance to completely deny coverage. It took months to get through the insurance approval process, but in the meantime PhilRx filled my prescription for just $10. This was another helpful tip passed on to me by my doctor. Eventually my insurance did approve it.

Choosing money or treatment

I have heard so many stories of other insurance companies not covering these prescriptions. Patients are left with the choice of spending hundreds of dollars every month or going without a safe and proven treatment. I feel very fortunate that I can afford to treat my dry eye so aggressively, but I feel bad for all the folks out there who are just as deserving of treatment but getting completely priced out.

I also know that there’s a limit to what I can spend. I can’t afford to keep getting IPL done every month, and if the doctor recommends more treatments I will have a difficult decision to make.

I'm also scared all this money I've spent on treatments will turn out to have been a waste and it'll just keep getting worse. I do know my eyes feel better, so until I have testing done at my next follow up appointment, I will just have to hope that it has been worth it.

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