The Medical Card Scheme

Whether you pay for health care in Ireland or not depends on your eligibility for a medical card and a GP Visit card. This eligibility entirely depends on your personal income and circumstances.

Medical and GP Visit cards are issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE); applications can be made through your local HSE health office.

Medical Card Holders

Medical card holders, which include approximately one-third of the Irish population are entitled to free medical treatment and drugs from their General Practitioner (GP) and free hospital services. Everyone aged 70 years or older is entitled to a full medical card, irrespective of income.

If you hold a medical card, the following services are available to you free of charge:

  • GP services
  • Prescribed drugs and medicines
  • All in-patient public hospital services in public wards (including consultant services)
  • All out-patient public hospital services (including consultant services)
  • Dental, ophthalmic and aural services and appliances
  • Maternity and infant care service. This includes the services of a family doctor during pregnancy and family doctor services for mother and baby for up to six weeks after the birth
  • Maternity cash grant of €10.16 for each child born

GP Visit Card Holders

Certain people in Ireland who do not qualify for a medical card may be eligible for a GP Visit Card. The GP Visit Card was announced in 2005 as a new initiative to assist those who did not qualify for a medical card on income grounds but for whom the cost of visiting a GP was often prohibitively high.

GP Visit holders are entitled to the services of a GP free of charge. Any drugs prescribed by the GP are not free. Any in-patient public hospital services and out-patient public hospital services associated with a medical condition are free, but there is a charge for some hospital services.

Non-Medical Card Holders

If you do not have a medical card, you will be required to pay for visiting your GP and for prescribed drugs up to a certain level (€85 per month). You are entitled to free public hospital services, but may have to pay certain in-patient and out-patient hospital charges.

You are also entitled to subsidised maternity and infant care services and you may be entitled to free or subsidised community care and personal social services.

Certain schemes are offered to everyone without charge, such as combined antenatal care and childhood immunisation. People suffering from certain illnesses may also qualify for free prescribed drugs and medicines regardless of their medical card status.


Reviewed: September 20, 2006