How to Apply for a Medical Card in Ireland
If you have a medical card issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) you can receive certain health services free of charge. Normally, your dependent spouse or partner and your children are also covered for the same range of health services.
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.
GP visit cards: If you do not qualify for a medical card on income grounds, you may qualify for a GP visit card.
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 — some prescription charges apply
- In-patient public hospital services, out-patient services and medical appliances
- Dental, optical and aural services
- Maternity and infant care services
- Some personal and social care services, for example, public health nursing, social work services and other community care services
- Short-term counselling for mild to moderate psychological difficulties, using the Counselling in Primary Care Service
- A maternity cash grant of €10.16 on the birth of each child (apply to your Local Health Office)
Medical card holders pay the Universal Social Charge on their income if it is over the exemption limit, but there is a reduced rate. Medical card holders may also be exempt from paying school transport charges and State exam fees in publicly-funded second-level schools. There may also be financial help with buying school books in certain schools.
Normally, your total income is taken into account in the means test for the medical card.
There are different guidelines for the means test depending on your age:
The assessment of a couple for medical card purposes is based on the age of the older person.
If your income is above the limit you may still be able to obtain a medical card if your circumstances would result in hardship without one. This is sometimes called a discretionary medical card.
People who are exempt from the means test
- Those with EU entitlement — see ‘Further information’ below
- Children under 18 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer
- People affected by the drug Thalidomide
- Women who have had a symphysiotomy
After your card is issued
If your circumstances change you must inform the HSE as you may no longer be eligible. For example, if your income or family circumstances change, you must inform the Client Registration Unit as soon as possible — see ‘How to apply’ below. Your card will be reviewed periodically.
The HSE will ask you periodically to confirm your circumstances. A review form is sent to you, which you must fill in and return to the Client Registration Unit. If you do not return your review form your application cannot be re-assessed and your card may not be re-issued.
If you return your review form by the given date but the review process continues past the expiry date of your card, the card’s validity may be extended so that you can continue to use it while the review is taking place. The extension is on a month-by-month basis so it is advisable to contact the Client Registration Unit to confirm that your card has been extended and continues to be valid.
Returning to work
If you are getting a social welfare payment for a year or more and return to work, you may be able to keep your medical card for up to 3 years.
If you move
You can use your medical card for up to 3 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 3 months, you do not have to re-apply for a new Medical Card. You should make contact with your new Local Health Office where you will be advised of the GPs practicing in your new area.
If you are changing your GP, you complete a Change of Doctor Form (pdf), giving details of the new doctor. The form is available online or by phoning Lo-call 1890 252 919.
How to apply
If you have any questions before you send your application, you can phone Lo-call 1890 252 919, contact your Local Health Office, or email email@example.com.
You can apply online for a medical card on medicalcard.ie. This is the quickest method of obtaining the card. The completed form will be returned to you.
Alternatively, you can download a medical card application form:
- MC1 Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form (pdf)
- MC1(a) Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form – People Aged 70 Years or Older (pdf) if you are aged over 70
You bring the form to the GP you have chosen from the list of participating doctors. Usually, the GP you select must have his/her practice within 7 miles of where you live. If the GP agrees to accept you as a patient for medical card GP services, he/she signs the form.
You return the form to the Client Registration Unit, along with the documentary evidence specified on the form.
You can track the progress of your medical card application at medicalcard.ie.
The HSE has FAQs on medical cards and medical cards/GP Visit Cards for people aged 70 and over.
Where to apply
Client Registration Unit
P.O Box 11745