Everywhere you turn there are LASIK centers advertising “lifetime guarantees”. What does that mean and is it even necessary?
Some LASIK discount centers entice potential patients by offering a “Lifetime Guarantee”. While this sounds very attractive, it can be misleading.
“It’s admirable for a clinic to provide a high level of commitment to its patients, however, the reality is what constitutes a lifetime and what is covered may be a matter of contention and circumstance,” says Glenn Hagele, Executive Director of the Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance (USAEyes.org), a nonprofit patient advocacy that evaluates patient outcomes and certifies LASIK doctors. For example here in the Valley, what about national LASIK centers, such as Icon, Axis, or Luna that performed LASIK on patients who opted for a guarantee, but then closed their doors and shut down their business?
One such national discount LASIK center’s “lifetime warranty” has raised Wall Street concerns after a review by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The unforeseen costs of a lifetime guarantee helped drive down the stock price due to the potential impact on future earnings of LCA-Vision, Inc. (NASDAQ:LCAV) which operates 63 Lasik Plus centers across the country. As a consumer, you should be familiar with this background information, because the viability of the guarantee is as good as the viability of the company that backs it. In 2009 LCA-Vision (LASIK Plus) closed 12 underperforming vision centers to reduce expenses. Two of LCA-Visions competitors TLC vision and Vision Care Holdings also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The reality of a need for a “lifetime guarantee” is typically unnecessary. In our practice there is rarely a need for a retreatment or enhancement beyond a one year post operative window that is already covered at no charge following the procedure. After the one year time window the frequency for enhancement decreases to a fraction of a percent over the next 10 years in our practice. In tracking our results and outcomes only 3% of our patients require an enhancement within the first year when the healing process varies most. Some LASIK centers may reach as high as a 15-20% retreatment rate within the first year.