Lasik for $299: is This a Scam?

One lasik clinic quoted me $2,000 an eye.  Another advertises only $299. Is the expensive clinic trying to rip me off?  They told me to watch out from something called the "Nidek" brand machines.

Doctor Answers 14

Beware of Discount Lasik

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The old addage is that "if something seems too good to be true, it probably is." This could never be more true when it comes to Lasik. If a provider or surgeon is offering a ridiculously low price for Lasik it means one of two things is going on, and neither are good. The first possibility is that you will arrive for your appointment expecting to have surgery for $299 per eye, but by the time they have added additional charges for post op visits, upgraded technology and the like, your per eye fee will be close to $1800 per eye. While frustrating this is the less troubling scenario. The second possibility is that the discount provider is skimping on such necessary items as laser maintenance and hardware or software upgrades. What I know is that if it is now the middle of 2010, I sure know I would not want my eyes operated on with 2004 devices! It is happening out there, though.

Remember, these are your eyes. Ask lots of questions. Ask when the last maintenance was done. Ask if the provider has power back  up in case there is a power loss(this happened to me while operating once and the backup power kicked right in, not missing a beat.......but what if it had'nt been there?!) Ask how often software and hardware upgrades are performed. If someone dodges your answer that tells you something right there.

Baltimore Ophthalmologist

Low LASIK price

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Whether it is $299, $599, or some other very low price, it is unlikely that you can have the procedure you want or need for this amount. As the price gets lower, the restrictions are greater, and more remote. I was once told that at one center that advertised $299 LASIK only 1% of patients qualified for that price, that is not very many. And everyone else paid a price that was close to market. It is difficult to get LASIK for less than $1000 per eye, and for custom blade free procedures it usually has a street price ranging from $1500-$2500 per eye. That is what LASIK really costs.

Jon Dishler, MD, FACS
Greenwood Village Ophthalmologist

You get what you pay for

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Sometimes you may see an ad for $299 LASIK.  What does that mean?  When it comes to your eyes, do you really want to trust someone who wants to provide surgery for less than 10% of what quality eye centers charge?  Patients commonly ask me about cheap LASIK.  Rarely does anyone actually get surgery for this price.  Cheap LASIK usually is for extremely low prescriptions that don't actually need surgery.  Then there are added fees for higher correction, treatment of astigmatism, preoperative examination, postoperative care, extra charges for a surgery with experience, and much higher charges for modern LASIK surgery.

Mark Golden, MD
Chicago Ophthalmologist

Lasik eye surgery scam

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The American Academy of Ophthalmology tries to monitor advertisements and claims made advertisements in an attempt to make decision making easier for patients. Many of the advertisements for 299 lasik surgery have many exceptions to the price quoted and there are often add on charges that most other practices include as part of the fee charged. It is important to do adequate research regarding the practice, the physician, and the fee schedule before undergoing any operation.

Just as a point of reference, the laser cards that we need to buy to put into the laser per patient is more that $299.00. If you chose a laser center that offers you the $299 price, make sure you are not in a "bait and switch" situation where you end up with a much larger bill. Lasik surgery has excellent outcomes, but the outcomes are very much determined by the preoperative screening, the intraoperative skill of the surgeon, and the post operative care. I know that your vision is important to you. Make your decisions based upon the quality of care you will receive.

Jennifer J. Lee, MD
Seattle Ophthalmologist

Costs of Lasik

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I would say that the $299 clinic is ripping you off, because they are not doing what they say. First of all, they almost never perform the treatment for $299, like the car dealer that has only one car at the low, low price. Average prices for these clinics are more like $1500 per eye. Secondly, the cost does not include all the things that most doctors include in the price, like followup visits, medications, enhancements when needed. These add up! Third, these clinics are using techniques and equipment that are cheap, but not necessarily what you would want for your eyes, if you really knew the inside story.

Andrew Caster, MD
Los Angeles Ophthalmologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 8 reviews

The Truth About Discount LASIK

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Yes this is a scam and here's why.  


It is virtually impossible to perform LASIK for this price.  Most places that advertise this way have complex billing protocols so that the average patient ends up paying just as much as they would at a legitimate doctor's office.  The $299 price typically is for less than one diopter of correction with no astigmatism. Which means a prescription of -1.00 or +1.00 and typically with a prescription this light you would not pursue LASIK.


The other option is that this price would not include post-operative care which is just as critical as the procedure itself. In any case, it is generally a mistake to seek out discount surgery.

Michael K. Tracy, MD
San Diego Ophthalmologist

Bait-and-switch pricing

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yes, it's a scam. it costs me more than $299 to actually perform the surgery. so they would be losing money on each eye

the bad centers false advertise like this, to get you in the door. then, they say, "oh, for your Rx it will be $1,399 per eye." then, when you complain, they'll say something like "oh, that special is only for people with less than 1 diopter of myopia and no astigmatism." in other words, for people walking around legal to drive without glasses, who don't want to have it in the first place

these centers also usually do unethical things like perform these cheap procedures on an old, non-upgraded, cheaper, lesser laser, like one they bought a decade ago and have no more use for, that does not have a per-click royalty fee. of course, they don't exactly tell the patient this fact

CBS News TV a decade ago went around NYC to film all the laser centers with a hidden camera hidden in the reporter's tie clip. they caught every center in NYC doing this kind of crap, except for mine, since we do NOT do "bait-and-switch" pricing, and have a PRINTED PRICE SHEET that we give each person that is the SAME for every person

you can watch that video on my website below, and find a center caught red-handed, who's owner promises on national TV that "we will get rid of this pricing immediately" and are still doing this in all their ads. apparently, immediately means in 2 decades!

Emil William Chynn, MD, FACS, MBA
New York Ophthalmologist

Cheap LASIK can be too good to be true

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$2,000 per eye is actually a very fair quote if it is a very good surgeon.  I met with a patient recently who went to a LASIK center that advertises LASIK for $499 per eye.  After the exam, they added a variety of costs and then quoted her around $3000 per eye.

Most often this type of setup is a bait and switch operation.  The overhead for a LASIK clinic is high enough that a center could not make a profit with prices that low even with very high volume.

They say that you should not be too cheap when purchasing parachutes or eye surgery.  At the same time, there are certainly instances of patients being overcharged by doctors that feel they are the "expensive" brand of LASIK. 

Find a great surgeon with a fair price.  Remember the quality of the surgery does not depend entirely on the price you pay but if a surgeon offers a very low price, it would be rare that a patient would get the high-quality service they require.

Jay Bansal, MD
San Francisco Ophthalmologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

You get what you pay for with LASIK

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You get what you pay for!  Read the small print and be comfortable with your surgeon and the surgical team.

Christopher Coad, MD
New York Ophthalmologist

Beware of Discount Lasik

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Lasik surgery is not inexpensive. But, then again, you only get it once in a lifetime. Considering the cost of contact lenses and glasses over the years, you may actually save by getting surgery.  The price should not be the deciding factor in choosing a surgeon. If the price is too low, it is usually because they will charge a separate fee per diopter of correction, in addition you may have to pay for post op drops, and visits and so on. There is an inherent fee in this procedure. The laser itself is costly and no physician will do this at a loss. So choose wisely and base your decision on the respectability of the surgeon, the overall sense of the place, and hopefully good references. Do not fall a victim to cheap advertising.

Natalie Borodoker, MD
New York Ophthalmologist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.