Certain people who do not qualify for a medical card may apply for a GP (family doctor) Visit Card. GP Visit Cards allow individuals and families who qualify, to visit their family doctor for free. An overview of GP (family doctor) services is available here.
Unless you have either a medical card or a GP Visit Card, visits to family doctors are not free. In order to apply for a GP Visit Card, you must be ordinarily resident in Ireland. That is, you must be currently living here and intend to continue to live here for a year. You can read more about entitlement to public health services here. You must also meet specific income guidelines in order to qualify for a Card.
In situations where for example, someone has an ongoing medical condition that requires exceptional and regular medical treatment or visits to the doctor, then the Health Service Executive (HSE) may grant a Card to that individual or family even where their income is greater than the guidelines. Usually the HSE will only consider these applications where an ongoing medical condition is causing or likely to cause undue financial hardship.
The GP Visit Card is a plastic card, about the same size as a credit card. It carries your full name/family name, your sex, the name of your GP and the validity period of the Card.
From 2013 people aged over 70 years with an income of €600-€700 per week (€1,200-€1,400 for couples) will no longer be entitled to a medical card. However, they will be entitled to a GP Visit Card.
As each GP Visit Card is valid for an individual period, each application is reviewed over time. The main reason for setting review dates is because income levels may change, dependents grow up, or other change could reasonably happen over time that might affect eligibility. The review dates for GP Visit Cards are largely the same as those for medical cards.Having a GP Visit Card only allows you to visit your GP for free. Any prescribed drugs associated with your GP visit are not free. Instead, you can apply to become part of the Drugs Payment Scheme. Any in-patient public hospital services and out-patient public hospital services associated with a medical condition are free but you will have to pay some hospital charges.
Eligibility for all GP Visit Cards is means tested. That is, your income is assessed by the HSE as part of the application process. To qualify for a GP Visit Card, the rules are largely the same as those for medical cards, except the income guidelines are 50% higher. Broadly speaking, you will qualify for a GP Visit Card if;
If your application for a GP Visit Card is refused, you will receive a letter from the HSE stating this. The letter will also set out the reasons why your application has been refused. You may appeal this decision by requesting your local health office review your application. When you seek a review, you should draw attention to any change in circumstances since you made your original application. In addition, it is useful to include any relevant issues, which may have been overlooked.
The weekly income limits (gross less tax, Universal Social Charge and PRSI deductions) were last updated in January 2009. To qualify for a GP visit card your income should normally be below the following limits:
|Category||Aged under 66||Aged 66-69|
|Single person living alone||€276||€302|
|Single person living with family||€246||€260|
|Married or cohabiting couple (or lone parent with dependent children)||€400||€447|
|Allowance for each of first 2 children aged under 16||€57||€57|
|Allowance for 3rd and for each subsequent child under 16||€61.50||€61.50|
|Allowance for each of first 2 children aged over 16 (with no income)||€58.50||€58.50|
|Allowance for 3rd and for each subsequent child over 16 (no income)||€64||€64|
|Each dependant over 16 years in full-time non-grant aided third-level||€117||€117|
There are also allowances for certain expenses incurred in respect of childcare costs and rent/mortgage payments. The HSE do not clarify the exact value of accommodation and childcare expenses. They usually have guidelines in each Local Health office area which take local charges into account. Some worked examples of how you may qualify for a GP Visit Card are available here.Allowances for weekly travel costs to work are assessed as the actual cost of public transport, or mileage at 30 cent per mile (18 cent per km).
To apply for a GP Visit Card, you use the same application form as that for a medical card. While your GP Visit Card application is being processed, the HSE will also assess your entitlement for a full medical card.
You can apply online for a medical card/GP Visit Card on medicalcard.ie. This is the quickest method of obtaining the card. The completed form will be returned to you.
Otherwise, you can download an application form for a GP Visit Card and Medical Card:
Completed application forms should be returned to the HSE Central Medical Card Office:
Client Registration Unit,
PO Box 11745,
GP Visit Cards are provided for in Section 58 of the Health Act 1970 (as amended by the Health (Amendment) Act 2005). This legislation states that the HSE "shall make available without charge" GP services for people who have full eligibility (standard medical card holders) and people with limited eligibility for whom it would be "unduly burdensome" to arrange such services for themselves and their dependants.
People with full eligibility for health services get the standard medical card. Those with limited eligibility who meet this criterion get the GP Visit Card.
The legal difference between the "undue hardship" criterion for qualifying for a standard medical card and the "unduly burdensome" criterion for the GP visit card isn't clear. To qualify for a GP Visit Card, the rules are largely the same as those for medical cards, except the income guideines are 50% higher.
Holders of GP Visit Cards have limited eligibility for other health services. This means that while they are entitled to free GP services, they do not have an entitlement to the full range of free health services like medical cards. They are not entitled to free prescribed drugs and appliances, dental and optical services and they may have to pay in-patient, out-patient changes and short term changes unless they come within the scope of one of the exempted groups.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.