Certain spectacles will be fully reimbursed from 2020 under plans unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron during a speech on social security reform.
Free glasses were an election promise of Mr Macron, along with dental prostheses and hearing aids - which will be reimbursed from 2021.
Under the plan, opticians must offer at least 17 models of glasses including quality lenses, such as unbreakable lenses, thin lenses, anti-reflective lenses and frames of different colours. The spectacles covered must also be available to patients with all vision problems.
The scheme is intended to open healthcare to the poorest in society. As Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said well in advance of Mr Macron's announcement, there was no chance of, "offering Chanel frames to everyone".
All adults will be covered for one pair of spectacles every two years, while children will be entitled to a free pair every year, Mr Macron said at the 42nd congrès de la Mutualité française in Montpellier, describing the changes as "an essential social conquest".
"Our system treats well but prevents badly," he said. "Having a system that prevents better is both better in terms of collective health and the effectiveness of our system."
Current reimbursement rates for such items are very low – for glasses, it is just 60% of €2.84 for frames and 60% of €2.29 for basic lenses, while costs can be more than 100 times that. Ms Buzyn said the government was in talks with the three sectors on cutting costs and aimed to have developed plans by June. Dentistry would be the first to be covered as it had the simplest system.
According to Le Parisien, opticians will also have a list of 12 capped prices for single lenses, variable according to corrections, and 12 prices for progressive lenses.
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