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The healthcare system in Ireland

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Public healthcare

The Health Services Executive, or HSE, runs Ireland’s public healthcare programme. This is a public healthcare system funded by the government that covers all healthcare needs. You are eligible to use the system once you have been in the country for one year and considered an ‘ordinary resident.’ In some cases, if you can prove you’re planning to stay longterm, you may still qualify. Everyone falls into one of two categories in the system: Category 1, or people with Medical Cards, and Category 2, or people without Medical Cards.

To fall in Category 1, you must meet certain income and means requirements. Determining eligibility is complicated but you can check your status at the HSE website. Approximately 30% of people are on this scheme. If you hold a Medical Card, you are entitled the following for free:

  • GP services
  • In- and out-patient hospital services
  • Dental, vision, and hearing care
  • Maternity and infant care
  • Some social care, i.e. social work
  • Short-term counselling
  • A grant of €10.16 per child born to you
  • Prescriptions are now €2.50 per item, or capped at €25 per month if you require multiple medicines.

Those who do not qualify for a Medical Card, are automatically put in Category 2. In this case you incur certain charges:

  • Visits to GP are treated as private and charged depending on your doctor. Most range between €30-€65 per visit.
  • GPs also charge for certain services, such as sick notes, immunisations, and repeat prescriptions, all of which vary in cost.
  • Prescriptions cost the retail price of the medicine, plus a dispensing fee, capped at €144 per month per family if you’re registered with the Drugs Payment Scheme.

There are plans in place to try to implement free GP visits for everyone soon, but as of now they still cost. Some people may qualify for a GP Visit Medical card, which is the same as being on Category 2, but allows free GP visits. All children under 6 and adults over 70 are eligible for this card, as are those who pass a means test.

Long-term illness sufferers who do not have Medical Cards should join the Long-term Illness Scheme, which entitles them to the drugs, medicines, and medical and surgical appliances needed to treat the illness free of charge. The illnesses that qualify are:

  • Acute Leukaemia
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Mental Illness (in a person under 16)
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Diabetes Insipidus
  • Muscular Dystrophies
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Parkinsonism
  • Epilepsy
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Haemophilia
  • Spina Bifida
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Conditions arising from the use of Thalidomide

Private health insurance

Because the public healthcare system often has long wait times, and a large portion of people have to pay for services anyway, many Irish people opt to buy private insurance as well. If you are a non-EEA national, your visa may also require that you hold a private insurance policy for your healthcare needs. Some employers offer insurance packages to their employees, but if yours does not, it is often affordable to purchase yourself. The cost differs for everyone as they take many variables into account, especially age and health history, but the average cost in 2015 was €1,925 per year. Make sure to get a variety of quotes and check all the terms and conditions before settling on a policy.

European Health Insurance Card

Citizens of the EU are covered in Ireland through their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). As long as you hold this card, you will be treated the same as an Irish citizen in regards to your healthcare needs, whether you’re visiting or staying permanently. Make sure you apply in advance of your travels so you have time to receive the card.

  Emergency numbers in Ireland:

112 or 999: Fire Services
112 or 999: Police
112 or 999: Ambulance

  Useful links:

Citizen Information – Public healthcare system
Citizen Information – Private insurance
Department of Health
European Health Insurance Card in Ireland

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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