Medical Cards in Ireland:
A medical card issued by a health board in Ireland enables the
bearer to receive certain health services free of charge. From 1
January 2005 all medical cards will now be issued by the Health
Service Executive instead of individual health boards. If you are
issued with a medical card, the card would normally cover you and
your dependent spouse and child dependants. (In other words, your
dependent spouse and children would normally be entitled to certain
health services free of charge also). Medical cards are small
plastic cards (similar in size to a credit card). Everyone in
Ireland that is over 70 years that is normally resident in Ireland,
is entitled to a medical card regardless of means.
What health services are normally covered?
If you have a medical card, you are entitled to free GP (family
doctor) services; prescribed drugs and medicines (with some
exceptions); in-patient public hospital services; out-patient
services; dental, optical and aural services; medical appliances;
maternity and infant care services; and a maternity cash grant of
10.16 euro on the birth of each child.
You are free to choose a GP from a panel of participating doctors.
The GP you select must generally have his/her practice within seven
miles of where you live. The GP must agree to accept you as a
patient. Read more about GP Services for Medical Card holders here.
A full-time student aged 16-25 who is financially dependent on
his/her parents will only be entitled to a medical card if his or
her parents held a medical card. A student who is financially
independent of his or her parents and who satisfies a means test may
be entitled to a medical card. A student in receipt of Disability
Allowance will generally be entitled to a medical card.
If you qualify for a medical card, you will be given a list of
doctors and a Doctor's Acceptance Form. You pick a doctor from the
list and ask the doctor to sign the Acceptance Form, which is then
returned to the health board. Your medical card will show your
doctor's name. The doctor you choose must generally have his or her
practice within seven miles of where you live. The doctor must agree
to accept you as a patient. It could happen that a doctor would be
unwilling to take you on, for example, if he or she already has too
many patients, but this is not normally a problem.
Medical card holders are exempt from paying the Health Contribution.
They may also be exempt from paying the school transport charges.
Persons with no income other than:
Old Age Non-Contributory Pension (maximum)
Deserted Wife's Allowance
Infectious Diseases (Maintenance) Allowance
One-Parent Family Payment (max.)
Widow's/Widower's (Non-Contributory) Pension (max)
Orphans (Non-Contributory) Pension (max.)
Blind Person's Pension (max.)
Supplementary Welfare Allowance
will be regarded as being eligible for a medical card. Hardship
cases are dealt with individually on merit.
In general, if you are getting the maximum rate of a means-tested
payment, you will be granted a medical card without having to
undergo a further means test. Medical cards are usually granted to
children in foster care. Some people may be entitled to a Medical
Card under EU Regulations.
Full-time students aged 16-25 who are financially dependent on their
parents would only be entitled to a medical card if their parents
held a medical card. Students who are financially independent of
their parents, e.g., they have income from part-time work, and who
satisfy the means test may be entitled to a medical card. In this
case, the health board where the student is attending college would
issue the medical card. A student in receipt of Disability Allowance
will generally be entitled to a medical card.
Lone parents with dependants are assessed under the income limits
for married persons.
Patients who qualify for a medical card under the increased income
limits for those aged 70 or over will be able to remain with their
current GP only if that GP applies for a limited General Medical
Services (GMS) contract.
You can use your medical card for up to three 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 three months, you should apply to
the health board for that area for a medical card. If you move to a
different part of your own health board area, you can apply to
change your doctor.
Assessments for medical card purposes for couples are on the basis
of the age of the older person.
All persons aged 70 years and over are entitled to a Medical Card
irrespective of income. This medical card which is not means tested,
covers the applicant only, and does not cover dependents.
*In the case of a married couple where one spouse is aged over 70
years and the other spouse is aged under 70 years, the spouse under
age 70 will be subject to the income guidelines. For couples aged
between 70-79 years, the limit is 497 euro. For married couples aged
80 years or over, the limit is 522.50 euro.
How to apply
Get an application form and a list of participating doctors from the
health centre or Community Care Office for your area. Complete it
and bring it to the doctor you have chosen from the list of
participating doctors. If the GP accepts you as a patient, he/she
signs the form. Your employer also has to sign the form and certify
your earnings or if you are claiming a social welfare payment, the
form has to be stamped at the Social Welfare Local Office.
Self-employed people have to submit their most recent Tax Assessment
Form and audited accounts.
Where to apply
Contact your local health centre or Community Care Office in your
area if you have any questions about medical cards and eligibility.
If you receive
disability allowance already, you are entitled to a medical card!