Access to healthcare services in Ireland for returning Irish emigrants is complex. Each individual will have different circumstances and it may be necessary to get one-to-one advice from Safe Home Ireland staff to fully assess your personal situation.
The information below is intended to provide basic information and to help answer your questions about healthcare. You can also get a more detailed overview on entitlement to health services in Ireland HERE
For further details or advice, please contact us at Safe Home Ireland and we will explain the healthcare system and assess your situation.
Entitlement to health services is primarily based on residency and means. Any person, regardless of nationality, who is accepted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) as being ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to either full eligibility (Category 1) or limited eligibility (Category 2) for health services.
Category 1: Medical Card holders – If you have a medical card, you are entitled to:
• free GP services
• prescribed drugs and medicines, subject to a charge per item prescribed
• public hospital services
• dental, optical and aural services
• maternity and infant care services
• a range of community care and personal social services.
Note! There is free G.P care in Ireland for children under 6 and people over 70 years of age, regardless of whether or not they are Medical Card holders
Additional Information on means testing requirements and the application process for a Medical Card can be found HERE
Category 2: Non-Medical Card holders
If you do not have a medical card, you are entitled to:
Free public hospital services but you may have to pay in-patient and out-patient hospital charges.
You are also entitled to subsidised prescribed drugs and medicines and maternity and infant care services and you may be entitled to free or subsidised community care and personal social services.
Unless you hold a GP Visit Card, you are not entitled to free GP services. (Exemptions in relation to children under 6yrs and people over 70 years of age)
You may be entitled to some community care and personal social services.
Full information on entitlement to Heath Care in Ireland can be found HERE
You are ordinarily resident if you are living in Ireland and have lived here, or intend to live here, for at least one year.
To establish that a person is ordinarily resident a Health Service Executive (HSE) may require:
Yes – in certain circumstances. If you return to Ireland with a UK State Pension and you are not employed or self-employed when you move here AND you are not in receipt of any Irish /part Irish Pension or benefit, then you can qualify for a Medical Card here under EU regulations.
You still have to fill in the relevant Medical Card application form and provide all back up documentation (e.g up to date proof of income).
However, even if your total income exceeds the levels set for means testing, you would still qualify for a Medical Card as long as you continue to fulfill the conditions above in relation to qualifying under EU regulations.
Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, you /your household will not pay more than a specified maximum amount for all your prescribed approved medication each calendar month. This maximum amount is subject to review by the Government from time to time. Please see HERE for more information on the DPS and the current maximum month rates.
You must present your card each time you attend the pharmacy before a prescription can be dispensed.
There are a number of items that legally do not require a prescription but for inclusion under the scheme they do require a doctor’s prescription.
Only those on the long term illness scheme are exempt from prescription charges. Everyone else (even Medical Card holders) must pay the relevant charge per item prescribed. Click the link for more information on prescription charges.
You can take out insurance if you become a resident of Ireland. You may, however, have to serve a waiting period. If you are an EU national and you become ill or have an accident during a visit to any EU country you can get free or reduced cost healthcare on production of a European Health Insurance Card. You can obtain this card from your country of usual residence.
Yes. All applicants for private health insurance cover must be accepted by a private health insurer, regardless of their health status or age. However waiting periods may apply before benefits can be claimed.
For more information on private health insurance in
Ireland, please see HERE.
No, however, as a public patient you do not have the right to choose your consultant.
Private and semi-private hospital care in Ireland is provided for in private hospitals and also in public hospitals. If you opt for private care in either a public hospital or a private hospital, you or your insurer must pay for your treatment and accommodation.
See Hospital Charges in Ireland for additional information
No. Foreign health insurance is not taken into account for waiting periods on Irish health insurance. You will be treated as a new customer when you return to Ireland and waiting periods will apply.
No. The health insurance system applying in Ireland is called community rating. In a community rated system everyone pays the same premium for a given health insurance plan.
No. An Open Membership Insurer must accept all applicants for insurance.
The Health Insurance Authority,
Canal House, Canal Road, Dublin 6, Ireland
Tel: 1850 929 166 (Lo-call number within Ireland)
Tel: 00353 (0) 1 406 0080
If you use accident and emergency services without being referred there by a GP, there is a charge. Please see HERE for an outline of this and other charges.
It does not apply to the following groups:
Note! European Union rules: If you have an entitlement to healthcare in another EU/EEA member State or Switzerland, you may have an entitlement to healthcare in Ireland under EU rules. If you are visiting Ireland temporarily you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card which covers medical care if you become ill or have an accident. You should bring your European Health Insurance Card with you when you are travelling to Ireland.
If you living in the UK and holidaying here, you can bring evidence of UK residence instead of evidence of a European Health Insurance Card.
The A & E charge applies to the first visit in relation to an illness or accident. If you have to return for further visits to an out-patient clinic in relation to the same illness or accident, you should not have to pay the charge again.
For more info, please see HERE
Proposed changes in 2023 – In Budget 2023, it was announced that there would be changes to Hospital Charges. For the latest information on that, please see HERE
The Nursing Home Support Scheme (known as Fair Deal) provides financial support to people who need long term nursing home care.
Under this scheme, the applicant makes a contribution towards the cost of their care and the State pays the balance. The scheme covers approved private nursing homes, voluntary nursing homes and public nursing homes. Anyone who is ordinarily resident in the State and is assessed as needing long-term nursing home care can apply for the scheme. However, this is a very complex subject. Realistically the options for returning emigrants accessing this scheme will be limited and may have to be assessed on a ‘test case’ basis.
For a full overview of the Nursing Home Support Scheme and the application
process, please see: www.hse.ie/nhss/