Entitlement to health services

Introduction

Everyone ordinarily resident in Ireland and certain visitors to Ireland are entitled to a range of public health services either free of charge or at reduced cost. You are ordinarily resident if you have been living in Ireland for at least a year or you intend to live here for at least one year.

Depending on your circumstances, short-term visitors to Ireland may be entitled to health services that are free or at a reduced cost.

Eligibility for health services

There are two types of eligibility for people who are ordinarily resident in Ireland:

  • Full eligibility for medical card holders
  • Limited eligibility for people who don't have a medical card

Medical card holders

In general, if you have a medical card, you are entitled to free:

Non-medical card holders

If you do not have a medical card or a GP visit card, you are not entitled to free GP services.

Non-medical card holders must pay for prescribed drugs and medicines. However, under the Drug Payment Scheme, you pay a maximum of €114 each month.

If you do not have a medical card, you are entitled to public hospital services either free of charge or at a reduced cost. If you need to attend a public hospital or stay overnight in hospital as a public patient, you may have to pay hospital charges.

You may be entitled to some community care and personal social services. Maternity and infant care services are free.

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.

For example:

What is ordinary residence?

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 have been living in Ireland for at least a year or you 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 is the person's principal residence (for example, proof of rent from the local authority)
  • A letter or statement from a financial institution (for example a bank statement or credit union statement)
  • A current utility bill (such as a gas, electricity or phone bill)
  • A current car or home insurance policy in your name
  • An official document from a government department (for example, a notice of assessment from Revenue or proof of rent from the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme)

The above documents must be dated within the last 12 months.

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.

If you are a non-EU national and you establish your eligibility for health services, this does not automatically mean your dependants are also eligible. Dependants of non-EU nationals may also have to satisfy the above requirements.

Public health services for EU citizens

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 you 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.

Public health services for UK citizens

Under the Common Travel Area, UK citizens who live in, work in, or visit Ireland have the same right to access healthcare as citizens who are resident in Ireland.

Page edited: 3 November 2021