When asked, “How is your health in general?”, 82% of people in Ireland state they are in good health, more than the OECD average of 69% (OECD, 2013). Healthcare in Ireland is free, provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and funded through general taxation.
Eligibility for Public Healthcare
If you are coming to Ireland to live for at least one year, you are considered “ordinarily resident” and are entitled to the same healthcare services as Irish citizens. To determine that you are ordinarily resident, the HSE may ask for some of the following:
- A residence permit or visa
- A work permit or visa, or a statement from an employer
- Proof of current address, and proof of home rental/purchase
- Evidence of bank accounts, transfers of funds, etc.
- Signing of a sworn statement
There are two levels of healthcare in Ireland. People receiving social welfare, on low incomes or who have serious/long-term illnesses may be granted a Medical Card which entitles them to more free services. The majority of people do not have a Medical Card and are entitled to some free services, some subsidised services, and must pay for other services.
Medical Card Holders
Medical Cards are granted to people receiving social welfare, on low incomes, and with serious or long-term illnesses. Medical cardholders are entitled to free public hospital care, GP visits, prescription drugs, maternity and infant care up to 6 years of age. Certain dental, optical and aural health services are also available.
Non-Medical Card Holders
People without a medical card are entitled to free public hospital care (though a fee may apply for inpatient stays), free maternity care and infant care up to age 6. Non-cardholders must pay for GP visits (approximately €60), however if referred by their doctor to a specialist or hospital, this service and any associated tests/x-rays are free of charge. Prescription drugs are government subsidised and you may apply for the Drug Payment Scheme whereby the government limits household prescription payments to a maximum of €100 per month.
Registering with a GP
Your GP (general practitioner or family doctor), is your portal to the Irish health service. They provide a wide range of healthcare services, and may refer you to a hospital or specialist for further examination when needed. When referred by a GP, any x-rays or tests you receive are free, however if you attend a hospital without a referral, you will be charged. The HSE provides a locator tool to help find GPs in your area.
Private Health Insurance
Although entitled to free healthcare, many people do choose to avail of private healthcare. The main advantage of having private healthcare in Ireland is being able to bypass wait times, which can sometimes be quite long in the public system. Currently, private healthcare providers include VHI, Aviva, Laya Healthcare and GloHealth. Private insurance is regulated by the Health Insurance Authority and you can find further consumer information as well as an insurance plan comparison tool on their website.