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I Won’t See These Leavenworth Eye Doctors Again

by Venomous Kate

Back in December, VH and I decided to get our eyes examined. I was 3 years overdue for a new glasses and contact prescription, and he’d reached the point where he couldn’t read the newspaper without growing longer arms. It was time, and the timing was good, too: we knew insurance might not cover all of the expense, so we wanted to get our exams done in time to deduct them on our taxes.

Fortunately — or so we thought — there was an eye doctor just down the road that not only offered exams but also sold glasses and contacts. We’d seen their building go up a year or so ago, and since then we’d driven past the sign announcing Drs. Norris & Kelly’s services almost daily.

VH went first, and being the cheap man that he is he declined all of the “optional” exam bling like baseline documentation. When it turned out that he only needed reading glasses, in a strength available at Wal-Mart, he figured he’d get them there.

I’m not so lucky: I have horrible eyesight. I had all the bling tests done and had both a contact and eyeglass exam. (Which, incidentally, I had no idea were separate things and still am not sure about.) I picked out a pair of glasses, ordered 6 months of contacts and paid for all but my eye exam.

Since I’d read our Tricare Standard insurance documents that very morning which listed among their family member benefits: “Physical examinations, including eye examinations, and immunizations.” So, I asked Dr. Norris and Dr. Kelly’s office to bill the insurance (which they said wouldn’t pay) and told them I’d pay for the exams myself if insurance didn’t cover it.

A couple of weeks ago, I got two bills from the eye doctors, Drs. Norris and Kelly, in the mail. Both are for $170, one for VH’s exam and one for mine. (Apparently my contact lens exam and base documentation — whatever that is — were included in the $462 I already paid them).

One-hundred and seventy dollars for an eye exam seems outrageously expensive to me, so I called their office thinking that perhaps they’d accidentally billed us twice.

Amanda, the woman answering the phone, said their eye exams are $86. When I asked why I’m being billed $170 for them she claimed that the $86 is for people who pay same-day, but if they have to bill insurance it’s more.

They charge my insurance company more than they charge me? Why, that sounds like fraud to me, I replied.

She justified the difference on the basis of all of the paperwork they have to fill out. (Apparently pushing “submit” on the computer is awfully hard work. Maybe I ought to set up a business in that line of work, eh??)

So, why wasn’t I told there’d be a different fee?

Umm… well… That’s right, she didn’t have a good answer.

But I do: I intend to get in touch with Tricare to find out why their fee wasn’t covered, then I intend to tell Tricare that they’re being billed almost twice what patients are being charged face-to-face for the same service.

And then, as I explained to snippy Amanda, I will never go back to eye doctors Drs. Norris and Kelley on 2301 10th Avenue in Leavenworth, Kansas (at for eye exams, glasses or contact lenses ever again.

But first I’m going to save someone else a ridiculously high charge for eye exams by hitting a “submit” button to post this.

21 Responses to “I Won’t See These Leavenworth Eye Doctors Again”

  1. Ahhhh Tricare! I remember when it was CHAMPUS. Good luck in working with them in getting to the bottom of this. I wonder if a call to the nearest office of your states AG might also be in order (as to possible violations in handling insurance claims by providers). Did your legalese radar go off by any chance?

  2. BIG time, particularly since I was not at any point informed that there was a “same day discount”.

  3. One thing is right (or rather – has always been my experience) there is a difference in the way they write up glasses prescriptions as opposed to contact lens prescriptions and they charge for each.

    I’ve never checked it carefully – but I believe each is an add on fee to the basic eye exam. I have to get both glasses and contact lenses. Also, I get a yearly retinal scan because my mother has wet macular degeneration so that’s been added to my repertoire for the last 5 years. And of course the glaucoma test because everyone should get one once a year – especially if it’s a family history thing (mine’s not but I’m paranoid – I like my vision). So my bill adds up quickly – the retinal scan really is a chunk of change… but at least I’ll know when I start to go blind.

    I have insurance too – although not Tricare – any reputable eye doc should be able to tell you whether or not they can bill to Tricare before you ever go in. If they’ve been in that area long enough – they will certainly have come across it!!!

    Next time – call ahead – ask if they take your insurance – ask their fees (they should tell you directly what they charge for each part of the exam – tell them you wear glasses and contacts) I would call several places and find out various prices before committing unless you happen to meet someone who really has had a good experience with a particular doc.

    *sigh* it’s such a PITA to go to any type of doctor anymore – it’s almost not worth it.

  4. They sure have a large staff for only two doctors…I wonder how many are relatives.

    Growing up in the LV, it always seemed that businesses kind of made their own rules that wouldn’t fly in larger cities – just like your experience – as a way of gouging people, particularly when they had a corner on the market…guess it is still true.

    Bryan’s last blog post..Movie Scenes made with Legos

  5. If Tricare Standard covers eye exams for glasses or contacts, it’s a new thing. It used to be really hard to get Standard to pay for exams for a medical reason, ie, eye infection.

    Tricare Prime covers one exam every two years by a doc on their special list. My last exam cost Tricare Prime $80 bucks. These guys are WAY overcharging you.

    Donna B.’s last blog post..A Patriotic Mural in Shreveport

  6. My chiropractor charges more to bill insurance than he charges me to pay cash at the visit (more than twice, actually). He explained it once but why would I care if I stand a better chance by paying cash at service time?

    Eye exams are ridiculously expensive here and as someone said, they do charge differently for glasses and contact exams. See what happens when you tell them you’re diabetic. Holy shiz.

    Health care in this country is abhorrent (see my blog rants). How many other services do you use WITHOUT knowing the charges ahead of time? WHY do we continue to buy into this? It’s ridiculous.

    jae’s last blog post..Somebody is 3 today

  7. I cant see things very well far off,I was thinking about the lasik(however its spelled)do you know if its a one time thing or do you know anyone that has had it done? thanks

  8. I had Lasik done almost six years ago. It’s considered a one-time thing, to my knowledge, except that it does not correct or prevent the aging of the eye. I’ve been very pleased with it. I went from 20/400 to 20/20. I still see well, too. Highly recommend it.

    jae’s last blog post..Move it, move it

  9. Comparison shopping for doctors is something we’ll be doing from now on, that’s for sure.

  10. I’ve noticed that with some LV businesses, too. Then they complain that they’re losing customers to Legends West and the whole area growing up around that.

    Well, of course! I can drive 20 minutes and find more reasonable prices and greater selection.

    When we first moved here I really tried to patronize local businesses whenever possible, but after a while you get so tired of getting financially screwed over (often with poorer service) that it’s just not worth it.

    No wonder businesses in LV are shutting down all the time.

  11. Like I said, I’d just looked at the insurance website. Apparently I misunderstood, which is fine.

    But the outrageous fee is not. I’ve since called around to a few other eye exam places within a 20-30 minute drive. Their rates for eyeglass exams run $45-60, and for contact lens exams in addition it’s another $20-$35.

    So, had I gone elsewhere I’d have been charged $95 at most. Oh and none of them had heard of charging patients twice as much if they submitted to insurance and found out the exam wasn’t covered.

  12. See, that practice of charging different rates to insurance and individuals seems completely repugnant to me.

    At most it takes 15 minutes of a billing clerk’s time to fill out the computer forms, so even assuming that clerk is paid $10/hour the cost to the business is all of $3.50. Let’s say that clerk has to follow up a couple of times, for another 30 minutes. Now the clerk’s work costs the office $7.50 altogether.

    So what the heck’s the justification for doubling the charge? Is it because the doctor has to wait 30-90 days to get the money?

    Fine, then why doesn’t the difference in the fee reflect the interest the doctor’s missing out on. The time value of the money doesn’t change that dramatically in 30-90 days, and a doctor with steady business can easily anticipate future monthly income.

    It’s a scam. And it’s running up the cost of insurance. So while doctors want to complain about how difficult insurance companies make it for them to practice medicine, etc., they need to accept some of the blame for gouging the system.

  13. I’ve been thinking about it, too. I’ve known a couple of people who’ve had it and were thrilled with the results. They’ve made many advances in the field over the past 10 years. Surgeries no longer need to be repeated in most cases.

  14. Kate,

    Are you sure that Amanda wasn’t making a mistake?

    Did you ask to talk to the office manager?

    The fees are way out of line.

    Flap’s last blog post..Barack Obama Watch: The Tony Rezko Problem; Update: Obama Strains His Credibility

  15. Holy crap! Most I’ve ever paid for an eye exam was $60 (Walmart charges $45 for your standard one). And this is so weird, because it’s been my experience that insurance disallows so many costs that it’s more expensive for me to pay for it myself.

    sarahk’s last blog post..oil

  16. VH and I have decided he’s going to go pay one of the bills in person and ask for a fee schedule while he’s standing there. We’ll go over it before paying the other one.

  17. I’ve never heard of such steep charges, either. I’m going to Wal-Mart next time for mine, too.

  18. Good idea.

    A month ago I received a bill for a two year old hospital stay for over $5K while insurance said $400.

    I wrote them and lo and behold they made a mistake.

    I certainly think $85.00 is a customary fee for an eye exam from a private practice eye doctor for glasses and contacts.

    If you had an eye disease or medical condition regarding your sight I could see it being more. But, then again, your medical insurance would probably pay more.

    I would write a letter or send a fax rather than confronting them in public. Give them a way out to “fix” the discrepancy. And, I would write directly to the doctors before I paid anything more.

    Flap’s last blog post..Barack Obama’s Church Pushes Back Against Jeremiah Wright Scutiny

  19. Wow, that is expensive. Just took my daughter to Vision Center at Walmart on the 12th. Her eye exam (including dilation) was 89 bucks. She picked out two pairs of frames, she got one set free, they were 99 bucks. Then the lenses cost is separate and the total came out to around 320 bucks.

    She got the most complete eye exam I have ever seen and I plan to have one when I find work and can afford it. They even tested her 3D and color vision.

    The reason the eye exam for contacts is different is because the contacts sit on your eyes and it takes a different exam in order to determine the prescription and what type of contacts you should be wearing, etc. If I had wanted the kid to get contacts the exam would have been closer to 109 bucks which would have included training. PAIN if you ask me. Next year she can go through that.

    Chelle’s last blog post..Another Year Gone By… Almost

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