Getting Glasses in France

I have pretty terrible eyes, and my glasses prescription, even though I only wear them at night or in allergy season, has not been up to snuff in a while. I got the glasses redone, with new frames, in 2006 before coming to France as an assistant, and haven’t messed with them since. I hate wearing my glasses. I can’t see as well, and I feel like I have a metal and glass apparatus separating me from the world (which I guess I do…).

I recently realized I shouldn’t even be driving in these things, since reading signs was difficult. So last summer I decided to bite the bullet and do yet another new medical thing in my adopted country rather than clinging to American ways. I’d already done it for the allergist, for foot surgery, for prescription drugs in general, so what was I waiting for?

To be clear, Americans get their glasses mostly in the following way: You call the optometrist and make an appointment for a few weeks later (correct me if I’m wrong on that). You go in the day of the appointment and spend about an hour doing different tests, as in, the optometrist says, “Which one is clearer? The first one … or the second?” about a hundred times. Maybe this is one of those things, like American dentistry, where we’re all reassured by it taking an incredibly long time. You may have your eyes dilated if needed, and you order your lenses and choose your frames. I’ve never paid for my own lenses but I think it can get pretty expensive.

In France, you have to get your appointment sometimes up to a year in advance, because you have to actually go to the ophthalmologist (though people tell me more and more opticians will do testing), and they are in ridiculously high demand. So I called in July 2012 for an appointment in March 2013. As a teacher, that’s sort of a big bet—who knows if you’ll have class during the time you got your appointment a year ago.

Finally the appointment rolled around and it took about twenty minutes. I called ahead of time to find out if my eyes would be dilated, and the answer was no, which was good because I had a conseil de classe just afterward. I took out my contacts in the ophthalmo’s office, sat in her chair, did the eye puff test, read a few letters (badly), and was done. I felt as though something important hadn’t happened. But she told me she was giving me a stronger prescription for my glasses, so I guess she saw what she needed to. I also got a prescription for hydrating eye drops, which are completely covered by the sécu.

Since it’s vacation now, I finally got around going to the optician today with my prescription. She took my insurance info, my prescription info, and my old glasses to re-use the frames. She tried to calculate how much it would cost according to my mutuelle, and came up with the 298 euros. I have fairly terrible eyes, with 8 and 8.5 diopters’ correction as well as bad astigmatism, which means that anti-glare and extra-light lenses are a must. But fortunately I just got a phone call saying that, after contacting my mutuelle, I’ll only be paying 120 euros. I’m not sure how much it would cost if I’d gotten new frames, since that depends on the frames, but they’re not very well covered (somewhere in the range of 60 euros).

I recently considered switching my mutuelle, since I’m still with the MGEN. But after doing a lot of different “devis” ordered online, I couldn’t find anything that covered glasses quite as well. Has anyone else out there tried getting French glasses?

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3 thoughts on “Getting Glasses in France

  1. Andromeda says:

    I’ve been getting glasses here since 2008, first with a nice opticien who tested me, but I finally went to an opthalmo when I moved back to Metz in 2009. Only a 6 month wait with him, he doesn’t open the calendar farther ahead than that.

    I have MCD mutuelle and I get 200 a year for contacts and glasses, not either or. I also really don’t like wearing glasses, but you can get some pretty snazzy frames when up to 200 is paid for already, so been wearing them more this winter. My correction is fairly strong, with some astigmatism, so the lenses aren’t too expensive.

  2. I used to mainly buy my glasses in the US (with a French prescription) because they were so much cheaper. And I wouldn’t switch from the MGEN – I’ve had a few mutuelles, and MGEN was probably the best out of all of them. I am on the fonctionnaire mutuelle now and it SUCKS big time.

    And maybe we’ve talked about this before, but would you ever consider getting Lasik? My eyes were pretty bad (around -6 and -7), and it was a life changer for me – you don’t realize what a hassle glasses/contacts are until you never have to wear them again! And being able to see a clock at night is pretty cool (as is being able to see while shaving in the shower lol).

    • Ksam: I’d love to get lasik, and the MGEN even covers 300 euros per eye. J would like to do it too. But we have so many other “projects” as the French say.

      Andromeda: The optician said the glasses would have cost 584 euros before insurance, though J thinks they inflate their prices. So I think the MGEN has done pretty good by me on this one. I’m supposed to wear my glasses more (says the ophthalmo), blurg. But the frames I have are already pretty cute, just not new, so I decided to cut the costs there.

      Thanks for your input!

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