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Is an ophthalmologist’s prescription vital for glasses reimbursement?

There is a difference between opticians, orthoptists and ophthalmologists in France - we explain how this affects your mutuelle reimbursement

Glasses or spectacles on display in a French opticians

Glasses prescription must be issued by correct professional to ensure reimbursement Pic: Poliakphoto/Shutterstock

Usually, an optician cannot prescribe glasses for you, and a prescription is necessary for reimbursement by Assurance Maladie and your mutuelle.

An ophthalmologist can issue a prescription, you do not need to obtain a new one each time you buy glasses. For example, it is not necessary for people over 16 if you are buying glasses which have the same level of correction as before, and the prescription is still valid (five years for age 16-42, three for those over 42).

It is also possible for an optician to do an eye test and to modify your prescription if the prescription is valid and the ophthalmologist has not explicitly forbidden this.

There is an exception in the case of a test showing a problem of near-sightedness which has not previously been diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. In this case, the patient needs to obtain a new prescription.

Support for appointments backlog

As of this year, another profession, orthoptists, will be able to issue prescriptions for glasses, to help with the problem of access to ophthalmologists in some parts of France. These eye experts are considered a ‘medical auxiliary’ profession, whereas ophthalmologists are eye doctors.

A decree is still awaited clarifying the rules, but it is likely that it will not be available for older people or young children, and probably only for those with moderate levels of correction. 

It is also intended that orthoptists will not be able to modify a prescription that is still in its validity period, but will only issue new prescriptions. Opticians will also not be able to adapt an orthoptist’s prescription unless the person has had an eye examination by an ophthalmologist.

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