Getting Contact Lenses in France with an “Un-conventioned” Doctor

Rigid gas permeable lenses. I love these babies.

Rigid gas permeable lenses. I love these babies.

Over a year ago I went to get new glasses, since my glasses were from 2006 before I moved to France. For the glasses, I went the economical and time-wasting route; since there’s a huge shortage of ophthalmologists in Poitiers (like many things, including MRIs), wait times for an appointment are anywhere between seven months and a year and a half. When I went for my glasses, I did actually get a new prescription for contact lenses too, but since I didn’t think I had the funds to do both that year, I just did the glasses.

So I sidled into an optician’s store this summer with my old contact lens prescription to see if it was still valid. It was not, or at least that’s what they said. The real answer seems a bit more complicated. Then I tried calling the doctor who gave me my prescription to see if she could just redo it. Here’s where it gets really frustrating.

A lot of eye doctors have so many calls for appointments that they only take calls the first two days of the month, or in the morning two days a week, or some other time-restrictive way that allows them to not really pay a secretary. Unfortunately, this eye doctor’s voice mailbox was full, which meant that I didn’t even get to hear the message explaining when I should call! This is, how shall we say, truly idiotic.

I threw in the towel and called an eye doctor who was “non-conventionné.” These doctors are obviously still doctors. They just aren’t reimbursed in any way by the sécu. That means 1) that they get none of the help with taxes and funding that conventionné doctors do, 2) that they can charge their patients whatever they want, 3) that the sécu won’t reimburse you for it, and 4) that they have so many fewer calls that you can get an appointment within the month (my first one was within the week!).

I didn’t care about the cost anymore. The whole situation was so ridiculous, and my contacts were so old (five years!) that I was not willing to wait another year for an appointment.

My fancy new contact lens case

My fancy new contact lens case

The new eye doctor I chose operates much more like an American eye doctor than the woman I went to last time. He has a full-time secretary-technician, and when you call to make an appointment, she makes sure you know that he is “non-conventionné,” that his first appointment fee is 95 euros with extra exams costing more, and that you may well pay all of it out of pocket. That said, I do not regret it one bit. This doctor is excellent. Every time I go for a check-up or a fitting he spends time explaining things to me, asking me things how are going, and even remembers where I work. There was definitely a “which one is better” routine, though it was shorter than the American ones and with a much smaller glasses-like apparatus. He knew all about the American optometrist system and chatted with me about it. He checked out my contacts and told me I had really good ones (thanks Dr. Wild) and asked me if I wanted to try these new ones that I can sleep in. I ended up paying 150 euros for the first visit, and I’ll pay another 100 once we get the contacts right. (I wear rigid gas-permeable or “hard” lenses which take a lot of fitting.) It is way different than the fifteen-minutes-in-and-out that I got with the other doctor. The care is expensive, but I am very happy with it, so I am considering going back to him in a year for my check-up rather than calling immediately to make an appointment a year from now with someone new. I don’t know yet if I’ll get anything from my mutuelle for the appointments, but the contacts themselves will be reimbursed like normal, as well as the prescription he gave me for wetting drops. He wants to check my retina soon too, which I guess will probably cost more money, but it’s been a looooong time on that, so I’ll go for it.

On a side note, do any of you have contacts that you sleep in? Did you find it hard to start sleeping in them? Ten years of DON’T-SLEEP-IN-YOUR-CONTACTS-YOU-COULD-LOSE-YOUR-EYE reflexes have so far kept me from falling asleep for the night in them, though I did take a successful nap (yay!).

Fanc-ay! But will I ever allow myself to fall asleep in them??

Fanc-ay! But will I ever allow myself to fall asleep in them??


3 thoughts on “Getting Contact Lenses in France with an “Un-conventioned” Doctor

  1. mom says:

    Your astigmatic eye demands an excellent ophthalmologist anyway dollink. That stressed-out conventionee doc probably wouldn’t have time to do it right. Glasses are one thing, contacts another

  2. Good to know! I still haven’t been to one in France. I usually went back home and without insurance there, it works out to be what you paid here so that doesn’t stress me out too much.

    My colleagues suggested that my husband make my first appointment for me with his ophthalmologist (a conventioned one), because they’ll be more likely to accept family as a new patient than someone out of the blue.

    • It’s true, it probably seems expensive because I’ve gotten so used to being reimbursed so well.

      I’ve also heard that advice for specialists. But ophtalmos here will take new patients—it’s just everyone has to wait a long time.

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