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Free glasses, eye and vision care in California.

Free eye exams, contact lenses and low cost prescription glasses in California can be obtained from Medi-Cal Managed Care vision providers. The benefits are for income qualified families as noted below, and the services available are focused on ensuring optometric needs are met. Find free glasses and vision testings in Californian below for adults, kids, and students.

The main reason that the program was created was to address the eye care needs of struggling families, including immigrants that are new to the state. The Medi-Cal service has the goal of providing free vision care as well as prescription eyeglasses to the low-income, working poor, and/or under-insured families throughout the state of California.

There are several conditions that need to be met and many different parts to the program. But at the the end of the day the Medi-Cal health care program is committed to helping the low income by preventing vision loss and enhancing eye care. They meet this goal through the provision of various health and vision care services to medically underserved Californians. Read other free glasses and eye care programs.


There are several conditions that need to be met. In order to be eligible for a free eye exam or prescription glasses through the Med-Cal, potential applicants and patients must need the following conditions.

  • The applicant already needs to be enrolled into the Med-Cal benefit program, and if they are, and meet other qualifications, vision benefits may be provided to them.
  • A routine eye exam will be available for participants once every 2 years. So they need to be underserved.
  • Med-Cal will provide for tests of the eyes and also see if the patine needs prescription glasses and/or contact lenses.
  • The applicants for any Med-Cal vision coverage must qualify as low-income. This condition is based on a sliding scale, which includes number of members in the household as well as their gross annual income.
  • Free prescription eye glasses are only given to people under the age of 21 as well as individuals in a nursing home, such as a senior citizen or someone with a disability.
  • The applicant can’t have any vision insurance, whether it is private or government insurance. Obamacare, or the ACA, may not exclude them if it doesn’t cover eye exams.




Other factors may also come into play. But the list above is what is generally required by the non-profit organizations.

Benefits of Medi-Cal vision care

If found to be qualified, then as per above, an eye test may be given once every 24 months. This can check for diseases as well as to see if the patient needs any corrective glasses or other improvements. Note that the state of California may provide free contact lens if the person can’t wear prescription glasses due to some other condition, such as an eye disease.

Free eyeglasses may be given as well. California will only offer this government benefit to individuals under the age of 21. This means that the most vulnerable, such as children or teenagers, often benefit. Medi-Cal may also provide support to those enrolless that live in a nursing home.

There may be other more extensive care given as well. The California Medi-Cal Managed Care may provide additional assistance to people with an injury or eye disease. As an example of what a provider may give, it can include artificial eye care or corrective equipment they need.

Medi-Cal may also provide free low-vision testing. If the low income family has an existing vision impairment that impacts their lifestyle, they may qualify for help. The impairment needs to impact their ability to work, care for family, and more. The condition also can’t be correctable by prescription glasses, susrgery, or medications. In these cases Medi-Cal may provide additional help.

Appointments for free prescription glasses are needed. As noted, care is only given to low income households that currently receive Medi-Cal. This is generally a very low income family, senior citizen, or even immigrant in the state. Services and eye care is also for Spanish speakers too. To find a participating Optometrist, contact your current insurance provider. Or the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) offers a referral service as well. Residents need to contact their local office.

Additional non-profits and charities for eye care in California

There are a few local and regional organizations as well as eye doctors in California that offer more local services. Each may be focused on a certain city or county, such as Santa Barbara or Los Angeles. In addition, they may provide free eye exams and/or glasses to certain qualified residents of those regions, including the homeless or children.





In addition, the assistance is also generally for the low-income, uninsured families in those regions who meet other criteria. Most of the groups are non-profits or charities, and examples of them (as well as a brief description) including the following.

  • Project Homeless Connect - They operate in northern California, including the Bay area, San Francisco, and Oakland. Homeless residents that need short or long term eye care may be assisted, or given referrals. Call 1-855-588-7968.
  • Vision to Learn covers Los Angeles County as well as city and much of the state. Working with optometrists, retailers, community clinics, and non-profit organizations, children from low income families can be given free eye classes and other care. Call 1 (800) 485-9196.

Other non-profits will also offer free care across California. Whether it is medical, eye exams, contact lenses, or even blindness prevention resources, there is assistance. Call 211 for local referrals. If the applicant lacks insurance, and is low income, much of the help is for free.


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By Jon McNamara














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