Carte Blanche, the French healthcare organization, has analyzed two million purchases by French consumers in 2020 and the related social security and private insurance refunds in the optical and dental sectors in order to assess the consequences of the healthcare reform introduced on Jan. 1 last year.

Called “100% Santé” (100% Health), the new national plan defines two product categories in terms of corrective eyeglasses: Class A products that will come at zero cost to the consumer after social security and private insurance refunds, and Class B products with almost no social security reimbursement. For Class A eyeglasses, refunds are capped at €30 for the frame and €65 to €235 for single-vision lenses depending on their complexity. Progressive lenses can be refunded up to €340.

When the reform was launched, a key interrogation for the French eyewear sector was to understand how many of the consumers would opt for the fully refunded Class A product category. According to the data collected by Carte Blanche in its network of 7,300 opticians, only 7.2 percent of French consumers chose Class A glasses last year, less than the 10 percent ratio initially anticipated and much less then the 53 percent equivalent result observed in the dental sector.

The company also noted that 56 percent of customers decided to purchase the frame in the Class A range and the lenses in the Class B category, or vice-versa, however with the choice of the frame prevailing over lenses, which led Carte Blanche to segment its data based on the price of the frame.

For frames sold at €30 or lower, the average purchase price of frames increased by 25 percent in 2020, almost reaching the €30 cap, and the average price of lenses rose by 20 percent. For frames in the €30-€100 bracket, the average prices of both the frame and the lenses rose by 6 percent while they remained unchanged for consumers buying a frame with a price tag exceeding €100.

Overall, and based on the data collected by Carte Blanche, eyeglasses expenses directly paid by consumers after social security and private insurance refunds rose from €119 million in 2019 to €127 million last year, representing a 6.7 percent increase.

The company also notes that the total share of purchases coming with no cost for the consumer actually dropped from 20 percent in 2019 to 15 percent last year. However, according to Jean-François Tripodi, Carte Blanche’s general manager, this percentage doesn’t mean that 100% Santé missed the mark as the new plan was primarily aimed at consumers who were renouncing eyesight corrections for cost reasons.

Based on the outstanding cost for consumers for a complete set of eyewear according to the frame price segment, consumers who chose a frame at €30 or lower paid 35 percent less than a year ago from their own pocket while the expense remained roughly unchanged for people buying in the €30-100 frame price range. However, the remainder to pay jumped by 27 percent and 39 percent for consumers buying in the €100-150 and in the €150 or more frame segment, respectively, mostly because the maximum refund for the frame has been lowered from €150 to €100 at the start of last year.

As the sector has been also deeply marked by the Covid-19 crisis in 2020, it is still relatively unclear how the 100% Santé reform impacted the market in terms of volume. Acuité, a specialized business information service, estimates that the value of the French eyewear market decreased by between 7 and 10 percent last year, with about half of the optical shops keeping relatively stable revenues, a rather positive result considering that sales had dropped by about 30 percent in March and by 90 percent in April, the opening months of the pandemic in France.