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Monitor / SICK EYES

Lasik Vision Chain Closes Its Doors

April 09, 2001|Benedict Carey

The price war between Lasik surgery providers has produced its first big-time casualty: Lasik Vision Corp., a nationwide discount chain. The company's 24 clinics in the United States and Canada officially closed last week, leaving many people in Southern California groping for follow-up care and refunds.

"We've had about 50 people contact us since the centers closed," says Glenn Hagele, executive director of the Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance, a consumer nonprofit organization in Sacramento. Hagale said some callers "had their surgery on a Friday and came back the next Thursday and the place was closed."

Callers to Lasik Vision's clinics in Pasadena, Long Beach and Irvine got recordings providing a toll-free number for parent company ICON Laser Eye Centers Inc., in Ontario, which acquired Lasik Vision Corp. earlier this year. ICON said it was trying to contact all Lasik Vision patients who need follow-up care. Many had trouble getting someone on the phone last week, Hagele said. Those from the area who got through were referred to ICON's San Diego clinic for a free exam ([619] 297-6036).

Most complications of Lasik, such as temporary dryness and halos, can be resolved with good follow-up care, doctors say.

Business analysts were not surprised by Lasik Vision's announcement. The chain was charging as little as $499 per eye for the surgery--less than half the average price--and many doctors wondered how they were covering costs. At private clinics, or research hospitals, ophthalmologists charge between $2,000 and $2,500 per eye, which usually includes exams and follow-up care.

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