Entitlement to health services
Entitlement to health services is primarily based on residency and means, rather than on your payment of tax or pay-related social insurance (PRSI). Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as being ordinarily resident in Ireland has eligibility to health services. You are ordinarily resident if you are living in Ireland and have lived here, or intend to live here, for at least one year.
Depending on their circumstances, short-term visitors to Ireland may be entitled to health services that are free or subsidised.
There are two types of eligibility for people who are ordinarily resident:
- Full eligibility for medical card holders
- Limited eligibility for people who don't have a medical card
Medical card holders
If you have a medical card, you are entitled to:
- Free GP services
- Prescribed drugs and medicines, subject to a charge for each item prescribed
- Public hospital services
- Dental, optical and aural services
- Maternity and infant care services
- Community care and personal social services
Non-medical card holders
If you do not have a medical card, you are entitled to free public hospital services but you may have to pay in-patient and out-patient hospital charges. You are also entitled to subsidised prescribed drugs and medicines and maternity and infant care services.
Unless you hold a GP visit card, you are not entitled to free GP services.
You may be entitled to some community care and personal social services.
General health services
There are certain general health services that are available to people on the basis of their need or health status rather than on whether they have a medical card or not.
- People who qualify for the Long Term Illness Scheme are entitled to get the drugs and medicines for the treatment of that illness free of charge
- Child health services are available to all children
- People who have contracted Hepatitis C through blood transfusion and have a Health Amendment Act Card
Establishing ordinary residency
If you are coming to live in Ireland or returning here to live, you must satisfy the Health Service Executive (HSE) that you are "ordinarily resident" – that you are living in Ireland and intend to live here for at least one year.
To establish that a person is ordinarily resident the HSE may require:
- Proof of property purchase or rental, including evidence that the property in question is the person's principal residence
- Evidence of transfer of funds, bank accounts, pensions etc.
- A residence permit or visa
- A work permit or visa, statements from employers etc
- In some instances, the signing of an affidavit (a sworn written statement) by the applicant
Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the HSE as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility (Category 1, i.e. medical card holders) or limited eligibility (Category 2) for health services.
The fact that a non-EU national has established their eligibility for health services does not automatically mean that their dependants are also eligible. Dependants of non-EU nationals may also have to satisfy the above requirements.
You may qualify for a medical card under EU rules if you are ordinarily resident in Ireland and you are getting a social security pension from another EU/EEA country or Switzerland, or if you are working and paying social insurance in one of these countries.
You must not be subject to Irish social security legislation. This means that you must not be in receipt of a contributory Irish social welfare payment or be working in Ireland and be liable to pay PRSI.
If you are living in Ireland and you are the dependant of a pensioner entitled under EU Regulations, or are the dependant of a person who is working in another country covered by the Regulations, you may be eligible for a medical card. You must not be subject to Irish social security legislation (in the case of child dependants this rule applies to the spouse or person looking after them).
Posted workers and their dependants may also qualify for the medical card. These are workers who are employed in another country covered by the regulations but are sent by their employers to work in Ireland for a limited time.
See the medical card assessment guidelines (pdf) for more information about entitlement under EU Regulations.