Medical card means test: aged over 70
To qualify for a medical card your weekly income must be below a certain figure. Here we explain the means test for those who are aged over 70. See also other information about the medical card and how to apply.
There are different means test rules for those under 70 years of age.
The assessment of a couple for medical card purposes is based on the age of the older person.
Income, savings, investments and some property are taken into account in the means test. However, there are certain exceptions.
According to the HSE's guidelines, if your income is derived solely from social welfare allowances or benefits or HSE allowances, you should be granted a medical card even though your payment may be in excess of the income guidelines for your age and situation.
There are some categories of people exempt from the means test, including people entitled to a medical card under EU Regulations.
Assessment of income
The gross income limit for the over-70s medical card is €500 per week for a single person and €900 per week for couples who are married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. These limits were reduced from the previous limits, of €600 and €1,200 per week, from 1 January 2014.
There are no standard deductions allowable (for example, for income tax). Pensions, earnings, interest from capital and all other sources of income are included in the means test.
However, if your income is over the limits you can still apply for the ordinary medical card on hardship grounds, for example, if you would have difficulty meeting significant ongoing medical expenses without it.
Spouse/partner aged under 70 years: Where one spouse is aged over 70 years and the other spouse is aged under 70 years, they will both qualify for a medical card if their combined income is not over €900 a week.
Surviving spouse or partner: If your spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner dies and you are aged over 70, you can keep your medical card for 3 years, provided that your income remains less than the limit for a couple. After 3 years the relevant income limit for a single person applies.
If you are aged under 70 when your spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner dies, the relevant income limit for a single person applies.
Assessment of capital and property
Savings and similar investments
Savings and similar investments of €36,000 for a single person and €72,000 for a couple are disregarded. A notional rate of interest is applied by the HSE to the balance. Alternatively, the HSE will apply the actual rate if you provide a certificate of interest paid on savings in the last full calendar year.
In the case of fixed-term or long-term savings products, where the interest is only applied at the end of a fixed period, if you wish, the HSE will only take account of the interest earned on the date the investment matures. The HSE can apply the notional rate if you prefer.
In essence, only the interest or income earned on savings and similar investments will be counted as income, not the total value of the savings or investments themselves.
Note that interest must include Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT).
Income will not be assessed from property (whether a family home, a holiday home or any other property) unless it is generating a rental income. The income to be assessed will be the actual income, less any cost necessarily incurred associated with the rental of the property. Such costs may include insurance premiums, loan or mortgage repayments, maintenance, etc.
Savings or investments are not taken into account if they are from:
- Compensation payments made by the Residential Institutions Redress Board
- Repayments made under the Health (Repayment) Scheme (that is, the Nursing Home repayment scheme)
- Awards made to people who contracted Hepatitis C or HIV from contaminated blood products (together with income from the investment of that money)
- Ex-gratia payments approved by the Lourdes Hospital Redress Board under the terms of the Lourdes Hospital Redress Scheme 2007
Read more information about the medical card, including how to apply.
Income over the limit
If you 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. There are lower income limits under these rules but they include some income disregards and allow for some costs such as rent/mortgage expenses and nursing home fees to be taken into account.
Background to medical cards for people aged over 70
Between 2001 and 2008, everyone aged over 70 was entitled to a medical card without a means test. After that, a means test was introduced, with effect from January 2009. From January 2009 to 4 April 2013 there were income limits of €700 per week for a single person and €1,400 per week for a couple who were married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership. From 5 April 2013, the limits were €600 per week for a single person and €1,200 per week for a couple. From 1 January 2014, the limits are €500/€900 per week (single person/couple).