Migrant Ireland
Migrant Ireland

Entitlement to health services
Maternity Services
Private Health Care
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
Early childhood education
Primary Schools
Post-Primary Schools
Third level education

Medical cards

A medical card issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) allows the holder to receive certain health services free of charge.

To qualify for a medical card your weekly income must be below a certain figure for your family size. Cash income, savings, investments and property (except for your own home) are taken into account in the means test - see general income guidelines below.

Normally, your dependent spouse or partner and your children are also covered for the same range of health services. Medical cards are small plastic cards (similar in size to a credit card). Your medical card will show your doctor's name. It is usually issued for a year, after which it is reviewed.

Medical card holders pay the Universal Social Charge on their income (except for social welfare and HSE payments), but at a maximum rate of 4%. The only exemption is for people earning less than €4,004 per annum. They may also be exempt from paying school transport charges, State exam fees in publicly-funded second-level schools. There may also be financial help with buying school books in certain schools.

GP Visit Cards: Unless you have a medical card, visits to GPs (family doctors) are not free. If you do not qualify for a medical card on income grounds, you may qualify for a GP Visit Card. It is means tested, but the income limits are 50% higher than for the medical card.

Weekly income limit (gross, less tax and PRSI)
Category Aged under 66 Aged 66-69
Single person living alone €184 €201.50
Single person living with family €164 €173.50
Marriedor cohabiting couple (or lone parent with dependent children) €266.50 €298
Allowance for each of first 2 children aged under 16 €38 €38
Allowance for 3rd and each subsequent child under 16 €41 €41
Allowance for each of first 2 children aged aged over 16 (with no income)
€39 €39
Allowance for 3rd and each subsequent child over 16 (no income) €42.50 €42.50
Each dependant over 16 years in full-time third-level education,who is not grant aided €78 €65

All capital (savings and investments) is taken into account for medical card purposes. However, income on the savings/investments or property of €36,000 for a single person and €72,000 for a couple is disregarded.

The disregard figure only applies once where both savings and property (other than your own home) are being assessed.

The balance is taken into account either by taking into account the actual rate of interest received, if you provide a certificate of the interest paid on in the last full calendar year or by using a notional rate. The HSE will use whichever calculation is better for the applicant.

In essence, only the interest or income earned on savings and similar investments will be counted as income, not the total value of the savings or investments themselves.

Notional assessment of interest

Capital Weekly means assessed
First €36,000 (single), €72,000 (couple) Nil
Next €10,000 €1 per €1,000
Next €10,000 €2 per €1,000
Balance €4 per €1,000

In the case of fixed-term or long-term savings products, where the interest is only applied at the end of a fixed period, if you wish, the HSE will only take account of the interest earned on the date the investment matures. The calculation of interest includes Deposit Interest Retention Tax. Again, the HSE can apply the notional rate if the applicant wishes.

Property (other than family home)
Where land/buildings are leased to another person, the income to be assessed will be the gross income, less any cost necessarily incurred associated with the property and such cost may include insurance premiums, loan/mortgage repayments, maintenance etc.

Where land/buildings, which are not being used but are capable of being leased or sold then the following assessment options can be used, with the more beneficial option applying to the applicant:

  • Notional assessment of the rental/lease “going rate” for the area.
  • Assessment of capital value as in the table for capital, above.  
" How/Where to apply" can be found at www.hse.ie