Stop eyewear refunds – Afflelou

Glasses tycoon Alain Afflelou says glasses are just a consumer product and should not be reimbursable by social security

3 October 2012

EYECARE tycoon Alain Afflelou has said glasses should no longer be reimbursed by social security.

Afflelou, who founded the chain of 700 shops bearing his name in France, says glasses are a “consumer product” and that “not seeing well is not an illness”. In France they are state-reimbursed at a low-level, with many people having some or all of the rest topped up by their private mutuelleinsurances.

If glasses were not state-reimbursed, said Affelou there would be “an electric shock for a few months and then people would start consuming again” because glasses are “useful and necessary”, unlike the many “useless things” people spend money on.

He said France and Greece were the last places in the EU to reimburse them.

Afflelou also criticised the fact that people are required to see an eye doctor for a prescription before buying glasses, which he said holds them back from buying.

He also attacked mutuelle top-up insurers for offering eyecare cover at overly high rates, saying that if people know they are covered to €300, they buy a €300 pair of glasses and “as everyone does that, so the mutuelles go up.”

However the president of la Mutualité Française, representing many insurers, said: “It’s quite the opposite. It’s the opticians who say ‘how much does your mutuelle reimburse?’ and who go up to the maximum.” Mutelle cover for eyecare varies depending on the cost of premiums.

In France you have to see an ophthalmologist for a sight test and a prescription unless you saw one less than three years ago. Adults’ glasses are reimbursed at just €1.70 for the frame and €1.37-14.72 for lenses depending on strength.

The Alain Afflelou chain is now majority owned by a British investment fund, though Afflelou retains 22%. It had a turnover of €603million in France last year and also has about 200 shops in Spain.

In the UK, glasses are not ordinarily paid for by the NHS but there are “optical vouchers” towards buying them for people on various benefits.

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