Medical cards

Introduction

If you have a medical card issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE), you can receive certain health services free of charge. Normally, your dependent spouse or partner and your children are also covered for the same range of health services.

To qualify for a medical card, your weekly income must be below a certain figure for your family size. Cash income, savings, investments and property (except for your own home) are taken into account in the means test.

GP visit cards: If you do not qualify for a medical card on income grounds, you may qualify for a GP visit card.

What health services are normally covered?

If you have a medical card, you are entitled to:

Other benefits

Medical card holders pay the Universal Social Charge on their income if it is over the exemption limit, but there is a reduced rate. Medical card holders may also be exempt from paying school transport charges and State exam fees in publicly-funded second-level schools. There may also be financial help with buying school books in certain schools.

Rules

Means test

Normally, your total income is taken into account in the means test for the medical card.

There are different guidelines for the means test depending on your age:

The assessment of a couple for medical card purposes is based on the age of the older person.

If your income is above the limit, you may still be able to obtain a medical card if your circumstances would result in hardship without one. This is sometimes called a discretionary medical card. See the Assessment Guidelines in Further information below for details.

People aged 16–25, including students

If you are aged 16–25 and dependent on a parent or guardian, you are eligible for a medical card if your parent or guardian has a medical card. (This does not apply if their income is above the means test limit and they have a discretionary medical card.)

If you have an income over the medical card income limit for a single person living with family, you are considered financially independent and in this case the usual means test applies.

If you are not living with or dependent on a parent or guardian, then you are living as an independent person regardless of income and your application is assessed using the standard means test.

Domiciliary Care Allowance

If you have a child for whom you are getting Domiciliary Care Allowance, the child is eligible for a medical card, without a means test, from 1 June 2017.

If the child does not have a medical card or GP visit card, you can register the child for a medical card online or download a registration form (pdf).

If the child already has a medical card or GP visit card, you do not need to register; they will be automatically registered for a medical card.

The HSE has a list of Frequently Asked Questions about this scheme.

People who are exempt from the means test

  • Those with EU entitlement — see 'Further information' below
  • Children under 18 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer
  • People affected by the drug Thalidomide
  • Women who have had a symphysiotomy

Other categories

Medical cards are usually granted to children in foster care.

After your card is issued

If your circumstances change you must inform the HSE as you may no longer be eligible. For example, if your income or family circumstances change, you must inform the Client Registration Unit as soon as possible — see 'How to apply' below. Your card will be reviewed periodically.

Reviews

The HSE will ask you periodically to confirm your circumstances by completing an online review form. If you do not provide the requested information, your application cannot be re-assessed and your card may not be re-issued.

If you require a paper form, rather than the online review form, complete and return MC1 Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form (pdf). If you are aged over 70, the review notice you receive will include a form that you can use as an alternative to the online review form.

If you complete the review form by the given date but the review process continues past the expiry date of your card, the card’s validity may be extended so that you can continue to use it while the review is taking place. The extension is on a month-by-month basis so it is advisable to contact the Client Registration Unit to confirm that your card has been extended and continues to be valid.

Returning to work

If you are getting a social welfare payment for a year or more and return to work, you may be able to keep your medical card for up to 3 years.

If you move

You can use your medical card for up to 3 months if you are living temporarily in a different area. In this case, you can attend any GP in the area participating in the medical card scheme. If you are going to be away longer than 3 months, you do not have to re-apply for a new Medical Card. You should make contact with your new Local Health Office where you will be advised of the GPs practising in your new area.

If you are changing your GP, you complete a Change of Doctor Form (pdf), giving details of the new doctor. The form is available online or by phoning Lo-call 1890 252 919.

How to apply

If you have any questions before you send your application, you can phone Lo-call 1890 252 919, contact your Local Health Office, or email clientregistration@hse.ie.

You can apply online for a medical card on medicalcard.ie. This is the quickest method of obtaining the card. The completed form will be returned to you.

Alternatively, you can download a medical card application form:

You can also get the application form and a list of participating GPs from your local health centre or Local Health Office for your area.

You bring the form to the GP you have chosen from the list of participating doctors. Usually, the GP you select must have his/her practice within 7 miles of where you live. If the GP agrees to accept you as a patient for medical card GP services, he/she signs the form. If you are refused by 3 GPs, state this on your application, including details of the doctors, and the HSE will assign a doctor to you.

You return the form to the Client Registration Unit, along with the documentary evidence specified on the form.

You can track the progress of your medical card application at medicalcard.ie.

The HSE has FAQs on medical cards and medical cards/GP Visit Cards for people aged 70 and over.

Children with Domiciliary Care Allowance

For a child that does not have a medical card or GP visit card, you can register the child for a medical card online or download a registration form (pdf).

If the child already has a medical card or GP visit card, you do not need to register; they will be automatically registered for a medical card.

Children diagnosed with cancer

Children under the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years are eligible for a medical card without a means test. The application form does not require information about income but does require a medical report. You can download the Medical Card Application Form for Children under 18 years, Form MC1(b).

Appeals

If you have been refused a medical card and 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 for 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.

Where to apply

Client Registration Unit

4th Floor
HSE PCRS
Finglas
Dublin 11

Tel: (051) 595 129
Locall: 1890 252 919
Fax: (01) 834 3589
Homepage: http://www.medicalcard.ie
Homepage: https://www.sspcrs.ie/portal/medapp/index.jsp
Contact Form: https://www.sspcrs.ie/portal/medapp/contact.jsp
Email: clientregistration@hse.ie

Further information

Assessment guidelines

The HSE has published assessment guidelines for medical card applications:

Entitlement under EU Regulations

If 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 may qualify for a medical card under EU rules if you are ordinarily resident in Ireland.

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 assessment guidelines (pdf) for more information about entitlement under EU Regulations.

Page edited: 13 November 2017