Reader question: What is the procedure for using the optician service for an eye test in France? Do you have to contact your doctor first? Does your carte Vitale cover any costs for eye examinations? Are some services just for glasses and others for eye problems?
There are three types of eye specialists in France.
The ophthalmologist, shortened to ophthalmo in French, is an eye doctor, whom you consult for eye problems ranging from check-ups to more serious conditions.
You do not have to have a referral from your GP to consult one. Ophthalmologists’ consultation rates start at €30 (these are sector 1 doctors whose tariffs are set by the state – you will be reimbursed €20).
The prescriptions for corrective lenses are valid for up to five years and for up to three years for contact lenses, depending on your age, so hold on to them.
An optician can give you a basic eye test for free but not a thorough examination, unless you have a valid prescription from an ophthalmologist. To get prescription glasses, you must go to the ophthalmologist first and get a prescription before going to the opticians. If you break your glasses, you can go straight to the optician, who has to inform the ophthalmologist of any changes in your eyesight.
Since January 2020, opticians have to offer a range of glasses and frames which are entirely covered by social security and standard top-up health insurance. Other glasses are generally not well reimbursed by the state, but some mutuelles (health insurance) can be generous, depending on the level of cover in the policy.
The third type of eye specialist is the orthoptist, who specialises in the treatment of eye conditions through re-education. This expert can prescribe eye patches and other aids but not glasses or contact lenses, and you must be referred by a doctor.
Up to 60% of the price of a visit is refunded by your Cpam health authority. Make sure to check with your mutuelle, if you have one, as it may well cover the part of the cost not covered by the state in some or all of the situations above