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Are Eye Exams Free in Alberta?

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A young woman undergoing an eye exam administered by an eye doctor.

When it comes to taking care of overall health, one aspect often overlooked is the eyes. Regular eye exams are essential for maintaining your vision, keeping your eyes healthy, and catching any potential problems early. But many Alberta residents find themselves wondering: are eye exams free in Alberta?

In Alberta, residents have access to the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP), which provides coverage for several different essential medical services. In many situations, eye exams are covered, but there are a few guidelines and exceptions to this rule, like your medical history or your age.

The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan

The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, or AHCIP, is a provincial government program designed to help cover a wide range of healthcare services for Alberta residents. It aims to provide residents with access to essential medical care. It covers a range of services, including:

  • Visits to your regular medical practitioner
  • Hospital visits
  • Most surgeries
  • Lab tests and x-rays
  • Prescription medication (in most situations)
  • Eye examinations for specific situations

However, it doesn’t cover eye surgeries, eyeglasses, contact lenses, or other eye care services.

Does AHCIP Cover Eye Exams?

There’s a big question in the air: what are these specific situations when AHCIP covers an eye exam? Alberta residents are generally entitled to one free eye exam per year. However, there are certain guidelines to determine eligibility.

AHCIP covers eye exams in the following situations:

  • Once a year for children under the age of 19. This is due to how often children’s eyes change as they grow, and aims to give every child a chance to have their vision monitored and treated.
  • Once a year for seniors over the age of 65.
  • When deemed medically necessary by a healthcare professional.
  • For people with a previously-diagnosed eye condition, like glaucoma or cataracts.
  • For people who have recently experienced trauma, illness, or medical conditions that affect the eyes.

AHCIP will likely cover your exam if you meet any of these qualifications. However, routine eye exams are often not covered for adults with no medical conditions. If you need clarification on whether or not AHCIP will cover you, you can always contact your optometrist for more information!

How Much Do Eye Exams Cost in Alberta?

You might be wondering about the cost if you’re not eligible for a free eye exam under AHCIP. In Alberta, the average eye exam usually costs around $100 CAD. However, the actual price can vary quite a bit depending on a few factors. These factors include:

  • The professional fee of the optometrist: Some optometrists have higher professional fees based on their expertise and experience.
  • The clinic’s location: Clinics in urban areas tend to charge more than those in rural areas due to higher operating costs.
  • The complexity of the exam: If special tests or procedures are required, these may increase the overall cost.
  • The use of advanced technology: Clinics that utilize modern ophthalmic equipment might charge more.
  • Any additional service or treatment required: Eye treatments or prescription glasses will be an additional expense.

If you’re unsure what you’ll need from your next exam, it’s always a good idea to inquire about the cost before scheduling your appointment.

The Importance of Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams are one of the most efficient ways to care for your eyes, and it lets a trained eyecare professional catch any potential conditions early on. During your appointment, your optometrist can check:

  • Your visual acuity (how clear your vision is)
  • Your peripheral vision
  • How your eyes move and align
  • The overall health of your eyes
  • The curvature of the eye
  • Your intraocular pressure
  • Your ability to focus at different distances

While this may seem like a lot, it all has a purpose. These tests allow them to check for a wide range of potential conditions, like glaucoma, high blood pressure, and even diabetes! That’s why it’s so important to regularly visit the optometrist—a lot of conditions can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful.

How Often Should You Visit the Optometrist?

An eye doctor showing a cross-sectional model of an eye to a middle-aged man during his visit.

For adults, seniors, and children, it’s recommended to visit the optometrist at least once a year. If you have a previously diagnosed eye condition, it can help to go more often so your optometrist can monitor any changes.

For anybody experiencing something unusual with their vision or eyes, visiting whenever you notice a problem is recommended. For example, if you’ve recently started experiencing eye strain or noticed that your glasses aren’t working like they used to, it’s time to schedule your next visit.

Schedule Your Next Eye Exam

At Calgary Trail Vision Centre, we’re committed to providing comprehensive eye care services for Alberta residents. Our team of optometrists is here to give your eyes the attention they deserve. Don’t wait until you notice a problem with your vision—be proactive and book your next eye exam with us today!


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