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Vision is an Important Thing

I’ve been putting off buying new glasses. I haven’t wanted to deal with the insurance, and besides I like my current frames. Unfortunately it’s becoming progressively more difficult to read signs and subtitles, so this Saturday while we were out I stuck my head in Het Huis Opticiens to learn how vision checkups are done here. The process was surprisingly easy.

My old glasses. I'll miss them. My new ones are a brushed green metal.

The first thing that impressed me was the ease with which I was able to get my check-up; I just walked in. Unlike in the US where we have to see eye doctors to get a prescription, opticians in the Netherlands are certified to come up with your basic prescription and (I imagine) work out things like astigmatism. I spoke with the woman who helped me and she said that the referral lines had simply gotten outrageous since it was getting clogged up by people like me with weak, but otherwise healthy eyes. Seeing an eye doctor requires a general practitioner referral and frankly why should I be preventing people with real needs from seeing a specialist. The exam was free and consisted basically of a eye chart exam and then the measuring of the shape of my eyes for a trial pair of contact lenses. No dilation or air puffs necessary.

I told my mother-in-law about this and she felt I should still make it a priority to see an ophthalmologist periodically to check for glaucoma anyway. I have “big cups” (ahem, the backs of my eyes) and that can be indicative of vision problems.

Once the examination was over the same optician helped me select some new frames. Since she brought the frames to me, rather than me looking around I was pleasantly surprised to find that my new frames were 50% off. Sweet. I got the impression that she isn’t being paid on commission because she took lots of time with me, and wasn’t pushing expensive brand name frames. Or maybe Dan’s frayed collar tipped her off that we didn’t have lots of money.

Actually, I was surprised by the lengths she went to not to charge me extra for various sundry things most eyeglass stores in the states would be only too happy to sell me. Instead of just buying contacts outright, she’s ordering me a trial pair. Then when we discussed transition lenses (something I’m use to having), she strongly discouraged it even to the point of offering to replace the plain lenses if I didn’t like them for just the cost difference. I’m still not so sure about the transition lenses decision, but she made it absolutely risk free for us, so I’m willing to be flexible.

The final cost?

  • Exam: Free
  • Lenses (polycarbonate, anti-glare & anti-scratch, white): €55/lens
  • Frames: €72 (originally €144)
  • 3 Year Insurance on Glasses: €11,55
  • Trial Contacts: Free
  • Contacts if I opt for them: €200/year for 12 pairs.

The relatively low price for my glasses (and potentially contacts) is a good thing, since my vision insurance is pretty much non-existent. Even if I was paying for a higher level insurance, the most I could get off my frames is 45 euros. For someone like me who probably gets new glasses every 2-3 years, that’s not really much of a deal.

My new glasses should be ready in a week or so. I’m looking forward to a clearer outlook on life.

13 Responses to “Vision is an Important Thing”

  1. Tamsin says:

    I’d like to see a pic of your NEW glasses! My hubby has to wear glasses all the time and it cost him a fortune here in the UK. Around the £200 mark. Maybe it would be cheaper for him to fly to your country, get his glasses, enjoy a nice tour, and come home. Ha!

  2. Amanda says:

    I promise a picture of the new ones as soon as I have them. It takes a week or so for them to be made. I’m not sure if it would really be much cheaper to come here and buy glasses, but it would certainly be a good excuse. Maasricht’s a pretty place. :)

  3. Star says:

    Wow…that is a refreshing experience compared to what we go through in the States. They always try to sell you all these fancy things that you don’t want and that your insurance doesn’t cover. Sounds like you had a great experience.

  4. Amanda says:

    Better than I expected. The only “add-on” she had was the 3-year insurance, but it covers a lot, including replacement just for scratches (and other stuff of course). The optician told me that I should inspect my glasses right before the first year is up and if they’re scratched up, bring them back and they’ll be replaced for free. Craziness.

  5. Invader_Stu says:

    I was amazed by the free eye exam as well and how I was just able to walk in and have it done there and then. you would never get that in the UK.

  6. Amanda says:

    Definitely an eye-opener. ;)

  7. Nicole says:

    In Australia I’m not sure if they do walk-ins (I make appointments anyway), but residents are generally entitled to free eye exams by an optometrist. No need for specialists.

    I’ve avoided getting a new pair of glasses in the Netherlands as the rebate was so woeful, and I figured if they cost the same before rebate as in Australia then it would end up costing a fortune. But that’s not a bad price — if I’d known that 18 months ago when I was due for new glasses then I might have gotten some. Now I’ll just wait until I get back to Australia and restart my health insurance there.

    (A colleague told me that there is a tax deduction for specs (possibly in the extra medical costs section), but maybe I misunderstood …)

  8. Amanda says:

    That’s true, the insurance rebates are woeful here. But I had to do something. My husband keeps telling people that I run into poles.

  9. bmallon says:

    Sounds like you’ll be seeing things more clearly soon. I am going for my eye check up tomorrow. I had to wait over a month for an appointment. And we have no insurance coverage.

    I want the extra bells and whistles like the no line bifocals and transition lens, so my visit will be costly.

  10. Amanda says:

    Those things stack up don’t they. Glad I don’ t need bifocals yet.

  11. Judy says:

    When I bought my new glasses the clerk encouraged me to send the receipt and prescription (I wear -4.75 on both sides) to my insurance company, because they might just reimburse me for it. I didn’t succeed, but that was probably due more to my switching companies at that time than anything else.

    The one thing that peeves me about Dutch glasses stores is that they only ever seem to carry rectangular frames. I hate rectangular frames–they’re a total mismatch for my face. I finally found my relatively oval frames at Eyes Plus, which I think is an awesome place because they had oval frames.

  12. Amanda says:

    You know, I noticed that about the frames too. I prefer rectangular frames with my features so it was actually a boon for me. I just can’t stand the heavy plastic frames, which remain terribly popular.

  13. bmallon says:

    My eye glass saga: eyes have changed some, both near and far.
    They did the eye drops, and everything is healthy.

    Got frames, transitions, and no line bifocals.

    My insurance does pay part ofthe exam and twenty precent of the total package. This was a surprise to me.

    New and fun frames.