Is buying a membership required?
Not at all. Our retail pricing is unmatched by any physical store, and we are glad to fill any valid Rx at our store. Check our Retail Optical page for applicable pricing. In the future all purely online sales will require a membership, as this is what helps us enlist your own local doctor or optician.
Does Tribe take insurance/vision plans? How are your glasses so affordable?
Make no mistake: The primary reason that glasses are so costly in the U.S. is the advent of the “vision plan”. There are only two major plans, EyeMed and VSP. Both of these are owned by the same two glasses conglomerates that have monopolized the entire industry.
In other words, the company sells customers a vision plan, only redeemable at places that sell frame lines they own. The doctor gets reimbursed by the frame company for your eye exam, then buys lenses likely from a company they own, shipped to a lab…that take a guess, they also own.
This is how a monopoly is born, and it is the real reason we pay so much more for glasses than anyone else in the world. These companies don’t just own the rights to trademarks like Prada or Nike — they in effect own the vast majority of doctor’s offices.
Tribe is an independent frame company, and these along with our lenses are sourced directly from manufacturers. We get your glasses made faster and for less exactly because we have built the first end-to-end doctor’s office to free itself by not being beholden to anyone else but our customers.
In short, we deliver our reasonable prices the same way that Vermonters save anywhere.
We do it all ourselves.
How can we process our current vision plan benefits?
For EyeMed, simply bring the card issued with the policy to Tribe. VSP claims will go into your account established with them, usually through your email. If time permits, one of our team members will make your claim alongside you, in our store at time of purchase. We also provide an instruction sheet for you to be able to submit yourself at home. Either way, the whole process takes less than five minutes.
Check your out-of-network benefits to learn exactly what you’ll get reimbursed after visiting us. The total savings are often huge.
Wouldn’t it cost less out of pocket to stay in-network?
Only if you plan on getting only an eye exam, without any glasses or contacts. As most people quickly find out when they try to use it, a vision plan does not mean the glasses are free. Not by a long shot. Instead, it means you get a certain “discount” on the frames and lenses.
What is left out is that these products will be very overpriced, leaving you with often steep out of pocket expenses anyway. For most purely medical plans, the exam is covered with nothing towards glasses or contacts. At Tribe, our bundling system almost always results in drastic savings over any insurance system.
Take these examples: Let’s say you just want a simple eye exam and new glasses.
- Vision plan “Discount”: $120 off frames, $50 towards lenses + $20 copay
- Frame = $290, lenses (polycarbonate with non-glare) = $165
- Total for exam and new glasses = $305 out of pocket + $19 per month for standard plan = $228
- Yearly “Eyes Bill” = $533 Tribe = $200, with all of your care covered for the year.
- For a progressives wearer, that yearly bill goes to about $950.
- Tribe = $325 for a complete exam, a year of care, and a new pair of progressives.
Insurance and vision plans aren’t the solution to unreasonable prices; they are the main cause of them. This is what Tribe was built to change.
Is Tribe Eyecare a franchise? Are there multiple locations?
No. We are a doctor owned and designed startup company, proudly operating out of Burlington, Vermont. We aspire to have more locations in the near future, because that is what will make this a movement rather than just a business. That is a place that only our members and patrons can take us. Read to the bottom for our overall mission.
What medical testing is included in a standard exam?
Along with your glasses or contacts prescriptions, every patient receives detailed retinal photos, dry eye assessment, and ocular disease screening. This includes management of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic monitoring, and any other relevant conditions.
What are your fees for contact lens wearers?
We don’t have any. One of our core principles is price transparency, so your membership fee covers all of your needs. That includes contact lens wearers. The only exceptions are for those that need to be trained in how to insert and remove their lenses, as totally new wearers. Our training fee is $100.
How is Tribe different than services like Zenni or Warby Parker?
Affordable glasses are our only commonality. We just didn’t stop there.
Other companies are trying to disrupt the monopoly on glasses, by working directly with manufacturers and overseas labs. That is a worthwhile goal. That said, they are themselves intermediaries between manufacturers, labs, doctors, and customers.
Tribe has zero intermediaries. At Tribe we are trying to disrupt the entire medical/ insurance company complex, using on-site lab work. We are doctor owned, and staunch supporters of our profession. We believe that websites to get glasses or contacts directly from manufacturers is just putting another middleman in place of another, albeit a cheaper one. The future in so many areas of healthcare will be actual providers working directly with manufacturers. That is the only truly efficient system, and it will provide such a meaningful improvement to healthcare costs as well as quality of care that it will become the new standard. That is the future Tribe is striving to build.
Do you see children as well?
Children ages 8 and under are seen for FREE at Tribe, with any adult member. With the quick changes sometimes found in children’s prescriptions, the ability to have the Rx kept up to date throughout the membership can save parents a lot of money.
I have a child with a lazy eye. I have glaucoma/macular deneration/diabetic retinopathy. What will I pay for the extra testing and visits required to monitor these conditions?
Not a penny more than if you only required a single visit with perfectly healthy eyes. You are the person that Tribe was built for. A big part of our founding inspiration was seeing patients forced to choose between caring for their eyes, or their child’s future vision, and mandatory household expenses. No one should ever have to make that choice, so we built a practice to ensure they never will.
Last but not least….why the name Tribe?
In a word, what we need is connection.
It is hard to describe the disconnect that lies at the center of American medicine and eyecare. Everything is in a rush. Over time more and more technicians, bureaucrats, and middlemen have come not to assist the doctor-patient relationship, but as many providers have found, to replace it. That is the system most of us know and increasingly want to escape. Patients are frustrated. Doctors get burned out. And we pay a fortune for our systen, all as it increasingly goes to those furthest from the front-line of actual patient care.
Tribe represents what we believe will be the future — direct, community-based primary care that serves only providers and patients. Individual providers and groups working directly with the manufactures of everything from medical equipment to generic drug-makers, even to glasses or contacts. This phenomenon has happened in so many industries, and we believe healthcare’s time has come. It will not be easy. The insurer and bureaucratic reach into almost anywhere we seek healthcare is so vast that it is difficult to imagine a place free from it. We wanted to change that.
The moral lynchpin that must change is our understanding of primary care. It comes first in agreeing that primary care — your general physician, dentist, and eye doctor — these are not luxuries. We must see them to maintain our basic health and function. These are the trained professionals we should get to visit routinely in a civil society. If we were cars, these are our tires, oil changes, and tune-ups.
People buy auto insurance in case they wreck the car, not to cover for its routine maintenance. Yet that is exactly the premise when we rely on an insurer to cover a physical exam, or in our industry, a basic eye exam and glasses.
In other words: For utilizing all forms of primary care, what exactly are we insuring against?
Primary care of all kinds should be affordable, easy to utilize, and its costs should be fixed regardless of complexity of care. As a provider, the diversity of our patients will thus serve as its own form of insurance, spreading cost and risk.
One day we will only use an insurance card at hospitals, if ever, for the unforeseen and life-threatening only. That is the only pretense that the term “insurance” has any meaning. That is the future that will lead to affordable, quality care for all.
That is why Tribe is an idea, more than it is just a place to get awesome glasses. (Because it is that also). Our idea is that providers of all kinds of primary care and our patients don’t need anyone else, whether that be a government agency or a for-profit insurer, to deliver the best care and products at the lowest price. We don’t need a third-party to be the savior. The answer has been the two people in the exam room together, this whole time.
We want to be your eye doctor and optician. We don’t rent our equipment from medical device companies that effectively necessitate we use it. We don’t have computer programs that report healthcare data to the government. We don’t sell you glasses we don’t own, made in labs we also don’t own, sold at a price we are powerless to change, all to make the monopolies even bigger. What we need isn’t another glasses website or lip-service to the astronomical costs of healthcare. We need an entirely new system, along with proof that another path is out there. But we can’t possibly clear that path. Only you can.
Join us, and we will make you glasses with our own hands, in a frame we chose ourselves for its quality. We will take care of your eyes, no matter what the future brings. We will take care of you like family, the way it should be. The future can be different, if enough people come together to agree it can’t stay the same. That is why it had to be called Tribe.