Cost of Laser Cataract Surgery

Dr. Gary Foster- Fort Collins & Loveland, CO

What are the costs of cataract surgery with a femtosecond laser

The Benefits and Costs of Laser Cataract Surgery

Medically necessary basic cataract surgery is covered by the major insurance companies. If you prefer laser cataract surgery, then your insurance company generally pays its standard cataract surgery amount, but you would pay an additional amount “out of pocket” to cover the increased costs associated with the cataract surgery laser.

The cataract femtosecond lasers are the pinnacles of scientific technology.  The laser manufacturers not only sell the machines to the physicians at a high cost, but also then charge the physicians each time they use them.  (This would be like you buying an expensive car and then paying the dealer an additional amount each time you drove it.  Interesting?  But that is how it is.)  Both of these costs are reflected in the amount your eye surgeon charges for the laser cataract removal procedure.

What if I can’t afford laser cataract surgery?

Basic cataract surgery is one of the modern miracles of medicine and has restored the vision of millions worldwide. If you cannot afford the cataract surgery laser then you should feel very good about the option for standard cataract surgery, especially if you choose a surgeon that has done thousands. I prefer the laser for many reasons, but feel very comfortable taking great care of patients without it if the laser isn’t the best choice for them.

In addition, eye surgeons are only allowed to offer Medicare patients the femtosecond cataract surgery option if they have some amount of astigmatism or have chosen an advanced technology intraocular lens.

How to choose a Laser Cataract Surgeon

It is recommended that you consult with a surgeon with considerable experience with both basic and laser cataract surgery. This would allow a fully informed recommendation on the procedure that is ideal for you.  Once your eye surgeon understands your individual visual goals and life style, he/she will be able to help you decide if laser cataract surgery is a fair value for you.  Please schedule a time to meet with me or send me a note if you have further questions.

Comments

  1. I live in the Bahamas and I have a cataract on my left eye. And like to know the price of having it removed by laser. I would be paying out of pocket. Thank you looking forward to hearing for you.

  2. Vernal Mcintosh says:

    Im from the Bahamas and my dad has cataracts in both eyes, stubbornly he cant stop driving and i want him to have surgery. ill be paying for it out of pocket and need an idea of what it would cost. Im a bit iffy on doing it locally, last thing i want is complications.

    • Vernal:
      Standard Cataract surgery is around 2,500 USD. Laser, ORA and advanced technology implants are upgrade options that could add around 3,000 USD extra to the costs if you elected add those to the procedure.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

  3. Jyoti Prakash says:

    Hi Doc,
    I live in San Jose, California and am 70 years old. I have there questions:
    * Can you recommend good laser cataract surgeons in my area?
    * Does Medicare cover complete cost of laser cataract surgery?
    * Is it OK to get a regular hand based cataract operation, or the laser method is a must?

    Thanks
    Jyoti

    • Jyoti:
      Medicare covers 80% of the medically necessary parts of the cataract surgery. This means they pay 80% of the standard “hand based” cataract surgery. They do not pay any of the extra cost of having laser cataract surgery. Those additional costs are all out of pocket. It is not a must to have laser cataract surgery. About half of my patients elect to have laser cataract surgery and half have standard cataract surgery. I prefer the laser cataract surgery for my patients, but if the standard cataract surgery was not good and acceptable, I would not offer it as an option for my cataract patients.
      I can’t recommend a specific surgeon, but recommend that you call a couple of optometrists in the area and ask who they recommend. You will start to hear the same name coming up over and over again. That is often a good place to start.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

  4. Caroline says:

    Hi Dr. Foster,

    Thank you very much for sharing the information. It is really valuable for people like me, who do not have medical background but is doing research on the topic for family member. My mom (~60 years old) has cataract on both eyes and she also has high myopia (1400ish degree) since she was young, which results in vitreous opacities. In addition, she also has Chronic Conjunctivitis from time to time. We are considering between the conventional cataract surgery vs. laser-assisted Femtosecond cataract surgery. My questions are as below,
    – Which method would you recommend given my mom’s eye condition?
    – As my mom is in China and I am living in California, we are considering the option of having the surgery in Shanghai vs here in California. How much does years of experience matter for doctors operating Femtosecond cataract surgery as such laser approach is relatively new and hasnot been introduced in China for very long?
    – Based on your comment above on August 6, 2014, the total cost for femtosecond laster surgery is about 5500 USD. Is this price more or less in the range among different hospitals and states, i.e. California?

    Thank you very much, Dr. Foster. I really appreciate your time and help!

    Kind regards,

    Caroline

    • Caroline:
      I prefer the precision and image guided benefits of laser cataract surgery for most of my patients. Currently about half of my patients elect the laser and half choose standard cataract surgery. As the lasers continue to improve faster than human abilities improve, I suspect the percentage choosing laser will increase. I feel both approaches offer good outcomes and safety. The more experience, the better for a surgeon. There are a number of studies that show that, on average, the more cataract case volume your surgeon has per year, the lower their complication percentage.

      Those that are extremely myopic present some extra considerations during cataract surgery because such eyes are longer than normal and the anterior chamber of the eye is often less stable during the cataract surgery. I find the laser particularly helpful in the highly myopic eyes. Having said that, you should not feel like you have compromised your mother’s care if the standard approach is more accessible with her options. We have been helping patients with the standard approach for many years.

      I don’t know the cost of laser cataract surgery in China. The price does vary a bit from one doctor to another in the U.S. I often hear higher prices quoted out of California, for example.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

  5. Ken Kellaher says:

    My sister is 59, lives in Bergen County NJ, has Downs Syndrome and needs cataract surgery. Is laser or traditional best for her? The surgeon she has ben referred to by her eye doctor does not offer the laser option. Should we just have him do the traditional surgery or is it worth delaying to seek out the laser option?

    • Great question Ken. Thanks for fussing so much over your sister.

      This would be a good question for your ophthalmologist as he/she would know more about your sister and her eyes. Here are a few principles I would use to decide. First, some patients with downs syndrome would not be able to cooperate with conscious sedation anesthesia like we usually use for cataract surgery and would require a general anesthetic. If this is the case I will sometimes do both eyes while they are asleep because the risks of a second anesthetic are more than the risks of doing both eyes at the same time as many with Downs Syndrome have heart problems also. Doing the surgery without the laser is faster and less cumbersome for a patient under general anesthesia, especially if we are doing both eyes. If your sister is able to cooperate for normal conscious sedation it is still sometimes easier to do standard surgery since they have to concentrate once at the laser, then we move them, and then they concentrate again under the microscope. As a general rule I prefer the laser for most patients, but well might recommend not using the laser for your sister based on how well she would cooperate with the surgery efforts. On the other hand, if the cataract looks harder to do than the average, the advantages of the laser might make all the extra efforts more than worth it.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

    • Great question Ken. Thanks for fussing so much over your sister.

      This would be a good question for your ophthalmologist as he/she would know more about your sister and her eyes. Here are a few principles I would use to decide. First, some patients with downs syndrome would not be able to cooperate with conscious sedation anesthesia like we usually use for cataract surgery and would require a general anesthetic. If this is the case I will sometimes do both eyes while they are asleep because the risks of a second anesthetic are more than the risks of doing both eyes at the same time as many with Downs Syndrome have heart problems also. Doing the surgery without the laser is faster and less cumbersome for a patient under general anesthesia, especially if we are doing both eyes. If your sister is able to cooperate for normal conscious sedation it is still sometimes easier to do standard surgery since they have to concentrate once at the laser, then we move them, and then they concentrate again under the microscope. As a general rule I prefer the laser for most patients, but well might recommend not using the laser for your sister based on how well she would cooperate with the surgery efforts. On the other hand, if the cataract looks harder to do than the average, the advantages of the laser might make all the extra considerations more than worth it.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster

      • Great question Ken. Thanks for fussing so much over your sister.

        This would be a good question for your ophthalmologist as he/she would know more about your sister and her eyes. Here are a few principles I would use to decide. First, some patients with downs syndrome would not be able to cooperate with conscious sedation anesthesia like we usually use for cataract surgery and would require a general anesthetic. If this is the case I will sometimes do both eyes while they are asleep because the risks of a second anesthetic are more than the risks of doing both eyes at the same time as many with Downs Syndrome have heart problems also. Doing the surgery without the laser is faster and less cumbersome for a patient under general anesthesia, especially if we are doing both eyes. If your sister is able to cooperate for normal conscious sedation it is still sometimes easier to do standard surgery since they have to concentrate once at the laser, then we move them, and then they concentrate again under the microscope. As a general rule I prefer the laser for most patients, but well might recommend not using the laser for your sister based on how well she would cooperate with the surgery efforts. On the other hand, if the cataract looks harder to do than the average, the advantages of the laser might make all the extra considerations more than worth it.
        God Bless,
        Gary Foster

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