Unless you have a medical card or a GP Visit Card, visits to family doctors are not free. In order to qualify 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 situations where, for example, someone has an ongoing medical condition that requires exceptional and regular medical treatment or visits to the doctor, 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 is 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 name, your sex, the name of your GP and the validity period of the Card. Cards are subject to review because income levels may change, dependents grow up, or other changes could occur that may affect eligibility.
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. The GP Visit Card does not cover hospital charges.
The income limits for medical cards for people aged over 70 will reduce from €600/€1,200 per week (single person/couple) to €500/ €900 per week. The GP Visit Card will still be available to people aged over 70 with income up to €700/€1,400 per week. These limits are expected to be introduced from 1 January 2014 with a transitional period so that medical card holders affected by these changes can keep their medical cards until 28 February 2014.
Unemployed people who return to work will be entitled to retain a GP Visit Card for 3 years without a means test. Currently they can retain their medical card for 3 years. This measure requires legislation and it is to be phased in during 2014.
Free GP care will be introduced during 2014 for children under 6 years of age. This will require legislation.
Eligibility for the GP Visit Card is means tested. That is, your income is assessed by the HSE as part of the application process.
The rules for assessing the amount of your income are the same as for the medical card means test for people aged under 70 but the income limits for the GP Visit Card are higher than the limits for the medical card.
|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 (with no income)||€64||€64|
|Each dependant over 16 years in full-time non-grant aided third-level||€117||€117|
There are also allowances for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of childcare costs and rent/mortgage payments.Allowances for weekly travel costs to work are assessed as the actual cost of public transport, or as mileage at 30 cent per mile (18 cent per km).
The rules for assessing the amount of your income are the same as for the medical card means test for people aged over 70 but the income limits for the GP Visit Card are higher than the limits for the medical card.
If you are aged over 70 and have a gross assessable weekly income that is over €600 but not over €700 for a single person (or over €1,200 but not over €1,400 for a couple) you can get a GP Visit card. If your weekly income is not over €600 as a single person (or not over €1,200 for a couple) you can qualify for a Medical Card.
When you apply for a GP Visit Card you will first be assessed for eligibility for a medical card. If your income is over the relevant limit, the deciding officer will consider whether it would cause you undue hardship if you are refused a medical card.
If you don’t qualify for a medical card you are then assessed for a GP Visit Card. If your income is over the relevant limit, the deciding officer will consider whether it would be ‘unduly burdensome’ for you to pay for GP Services if you don’t have a GP Visit Card.
If you are over 70 and don’t qualify under the means test for people over 70 you can be assessed under the general scheme means test rules that apply to people under 70. This means that potential hardship arising from a refusal will be taken into account if your income is over the general scheme limits. It also means that your income can be assessed under the general scheme rules. These rules have lower income limits but they include some income disregards and allow for some costs such as rent or mortgage expenses to be taken into account.
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. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you may have it reviewed. Your circumstances may have changed or you may have left out some relevant information from the original application. If you are not satisfied with the review you may make an appeal to the Appeals Office of your HSE Area. The contact details will also be contained in your letter of refusal. The Appeals Office will conduct a reassessment of your application. This will be conducted by HSE staff who were not involved in deciding on your original application.
To apply for a GP Visit Card, you use the same application form as for a medical card. As part of the application process for the GP Visit Card, your entitlement for a medical card will also be assessed.
You can apply online for a medical card or 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:
Contact Lo-call 1890 252 919 or your Local Health Office for more information on GP Visit Cards. You can also contact the Client Registration Unit. This is where you return the completed application form to:
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.