D.C. area dopers: where did you get your laser vision correction done?

I’m going to do it – laser correction. I’ve searched for threads and found a few about the process, pros and cons, and decided I defintely want to get it done, but now the question is, where? I had a consultation with TLC in Rockville, went thru the exam and then found out the cost there is $5,000. Yikes! They said my vision plan at work will cover part of it, but still leaves $3,600 for me to pay. I don’t want to cheap-out where my eyesight is concerned, but I know some reputable places are charging $1000 for each eye. I found an ad in today’s W. Post for the Millennium Laser Eye Centers - $999 per eye, and a few weeks ago, an ad for the Laser Vision Institute for about the same, but it’s in Vienna, Va. I’d rather not have to travel to northern Virginia for the surgery and follow-up checks. (I live in Beltsville, Md.) So, where did you go for yours and are you happy with the staff, doctors, fee, etc.?

Mrs. O had hers done at The Laser Center in Fairfax. It was one of the full-price places, but since she’s a medical professional they cut her price down to $3000. (If you’re a med or in a med’s immediate family, the discount can be yours, as I understand it.)

She’s had absolutely no complaints about the surgery whatsoever. I can’t recall what she was before the procedure, but she couldn’t go anywhere, even get out of bed, without her glasses. Now she’s 20/15 in one eye and 20/20 in the other.

To be honest with you, I really think if you’re going to have it done, go with the high-end people. Generally they have a decent financing plan available (I qualified for a $10,000 loan with MBNA through their program, which paid for the surgery nicely and only came to about $180/mo payment over 36 months) and will work with you on paying for it. This is your vision we’re talking about, and I myself wouldn’t feel comfortable going to someone who’s beating the drum about their low low prices before anything else.

The staff was very good, explaining anything we were concerned about or didn’t understand and they were really professional about getting Mrs. O calm and relaxed before the surgery. (She hates Valium but really appreciated it at the time.) My recommendation? Go back to the TLC and see what kind of financing options are available. Mrs. O’s experience seems to tell me you won’t be sorry you did.

Thanks for the advice, Olentzero. Frankly, I can afford TLC - the $3600 that is; I could pay it outright if I had too, and I know they have the monthly payment option too. I guess $5,000 just seems incredibly expensive to me when this surgery is not new and you’re talking about, what, 10 minutes? Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re not paying for the time but the for the surgeon’s expertise (and education!) But I’m also paying for that huge, very nice office suite and the huge staff. All I’m saying is, TLC can’t be the only place that does expert eye surgery, maybe for a whole lot less and what the hell, why not check with the teeming millions? I plan to check them out if they sound good, but in the end it is my eyesight that is most important I agree.

My father had his done by Dr. Lawrence Levinson in Potomac, Md. It’s just a private practice, not a chain. Dr. Levinson was our family eye doctor (we all have crappy vision) for years and years and is a really nice guy and a great doctor.
I don’t know what he charges, but it might be worth giving him a call.

You’ve got some good points, Sycorax. The surgery isn’t new, of course, but it’s obviously being improved upon. The original procedure was a radial keratotomy, where the cornea was sliced into sections like a pie or a Trivial Pursuit piece. Now, of course, the procedure is radically different.

My guess is that the guys who charge much less may be using older techniques (and possibly older equipment) than the people at either the cutting edge (no pun intended) or state of the art. To counter that there’s the argument that the newest techniques may not be sufficiently tested, but to be honest I don’t think that applies to TLC.

I know we’ve had threads like this before with people asking; I was certain other Capital Region Dopers had checked in. Wonder where they are now?

Yeah, where the heck are they? Update: my s.o. dropped into his eye doctor today and asked who they refer folks to for laser surgery. Answer: TLC (the $5,000 place). BUT, eye doctors get kickbacks from TLC! (uh, excuse me, they called it a “referral fee,” which makes it ethical, I guess ;))

No way would I ever do that. 'Cause if they get it wrong, your vision is screwed for life. Forget it. Glasses or contacts are not too much of a cross to bear compared to damaged eyes.