Government Schemes

Doctor Visit Card

A GP Visit Card allows you to visit your family doctor for free. If you do not qualify for a medical card you may be eligible for a GP Visit Card Unless you have a medical card or a GP Visit Card, visits to family doctors are not free. In order to qualify for a GP Visit Card, you must be ordinarily resident in Ireland. That is, you must be currently living here and intend to continue to live here for a year. You must also meet specific income guidelines. In situations where, for example, someone has an ongoing medical condition that requires exceptional and regular medical treatment or visits to the doctor, the Health Service Executive (HSE) may grant a Card to that individual or family even where their income is greater than the guidelines.

Usually the HSE will only consider these applications where an ongoing medical condition is causing or is likely to cause undue financial hardship. The GP Visit Card is a plastic card, about the same size as a credit card. It carries your name, your sex, the name of your GP and the validity period of the Card. Cards are subject to review because income levels may change, dependents grow up, or other changes could occur that may affect eligibility.

Having a GP Visit Card only allows you to visit your GP for free. Any prescribed drugs associated with your GP visit are not free. Instead, you can apply to become part of the Drugs Payment Scheme. The GP Visit Card does not cover hospital charges. Rules Eligibility for the GP Visit Card is means tested.

That is, your income is assessed by the HSE as part of the application process. Income limits for people aged under 70 The rules for assessing the amount of your income are the same as for the medical card means test for people aged under 70 but the income limits for the GP Visit Card are higher than the limits for the medical card. GP Visit Card and weekly income limit, gross less tax, USC & PRSI.

  • Category
  • Single person living alone
  • Single person living with family
  • Married or cohabiting couple (or lone parent with dependent children)
  • Allowance for each of first 2 children aged under 16
  • Allowance for 3rd and for each subsequent child under 16
  • Allowance for each of first 2 children aged over 16 (with no income)
  • Allowance for 3rd and for each subsequent child over 16 (with no income)
  • Each dependant over 16 years in full-time non-grant aided third-level
  • Aged under 66
  • 276 Euros
  • 246 Euros
  • 400 Euros
  • 57 Euros
  • 61.50 Euros
  • 58.50 Euros
  • 64 Euros
  • 117 Euros
  • Aged 66 - 69
  • 302 Euros
  • 260 Euros
  • 447 Euros
  • 57 Euros
  • 61.50 Euros
  • 58.50 Euros
  • 64 Euros
  • 117 Euros

There are also allowances for reasonable expenses incurred in respect of childcare costs and rent/mortgage payments. Allowances for weekly travel costs to work are assessed as the actual cost of public transport, or as mileage at 30 cent per mile (18 cent per km).

Income limits for people aged over 70

The rules for assessing the amount of your income are the same as for the medical card means test for people aged over 70 but the income limits for the GP Visit Card are higher than the limits for the medical card. If you are aged over 70 and have a gross assessable weekly income that is over 500 but not over 700 for a single person (or over 900 but not over 1,400 for a couple) you can get a GP Visit card. If your weekly income is not over 500 as a single person (or not over 900 for a couple) you can qualify for a Medical Card.

Income over the limit

When you apply for a GP Visit Card you will first be assessed for eligibility for a medical card. If your income is over the relevant limit, the deciding officer will consider whether it would cause you undue hardship if you are refused a medical card. If you don't qualify for a medical card you are then assessed for a GP Visit Card. If your income is over the relevant limit, the deciding officer will consider whether it would be 'unduly burdensome' for you to pay for GP Services if you don't have a GP Visit Card. If you are over 70 and don't qualify under the means test for people over 70 you can be assessed under the general scheme means test rules that apply to people under 70.

This means that potential hardship arising from a refusal will be taken into account if your income is over the general scheme limits. It also means that your income can be assessed under the general scheme rules. These rules have lower income limits but they include some income disregards and allow for some costs such as rent or mortgage expenses to be taken into account.

Appeals

If your application for a GP Visit Card is refused, you will receive a letter from the HSE stating this. The letter will also set out the reasons why your application has been refused. If you are not satisfied with the decision, you may have it reviewed. Your circumstances may have changed or you may have left out some relevant information from the original application. If you are not satisfied with the review you may make an appeal to the Appeals Office of your HSE Area. The contact details will also be contained in your letter of refusal. The Appeals Office will conduct a reassessment of your application. This will be conducted by HSE staff who were not involved in deciding on your original application.

How To Apply

To apply for a GP Visit Card, you use the same application form as for a medical card. As part of the application process for the GP Visit Card, your entitlement for a medical card will also be assessed. You can apply online for a medical card or GP Visit Card on medicalcard.ie. This is the quickest method of obtaining the card. The completed form will be returned to you. Otherwise, you can download an application form for a GP Visit Card and medical card:
Medical Card/GP Visit Card Application form.
Medical Card/GP Visit Card Application form for people aged 70 or older.

Where to Apply

Contact Lo-call 1890 252 919 or your local health office for more information on GP Visit Cards. You can also contact the Client Registration Unit. This is where you return the completed application form to:
P.O Box 11745
Finglas
Dublin 11
Ireland
Locall:1890 252 919
Fax:(01) 834 3589
Website: SSPCRS.IE
Email: clientregistration@hse.ie

Medical Card

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 & 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
  • A maternity cash grant of 10.16 Euros on the birth of each child

Other Benefits

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 10,036 per annum. 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.

Rules

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. See the Assessment Guidelines in Further information below for details. People who are exempt from the means test:

  • Those with EU entitlement - see 'Further information' below
  • People affected by the drug Thalidomide
  • Women who have had a symphysiotomy

Other categories

Medical cards are usually granted to children in foster care.

People aged 16-25, including students, who are financially independent of their parents may be entitled to a medical card if they pass the means test. If they are financially dependent on their parents they are normally only entitled to a medical card if their parents have one. A student getting Disability Allowance will generally be entitled to a medical card.

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.

Reviews

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. You may continue to use your expired card while a review is taking place, as long as you continue to be involved in the review process. Your eligibility can be confirmed by any doctor or pharmacist or through the GP practice systems, or you can confirm it yourself online at medicalcard.ie.

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. It is planned to change this in 2014 so that instead you will be entitled to retain a GP Visit Card without a means test when you return to work, rather than retaining a medical card.

If you move house

You can use your medical card for up to 3 months if you are living temporarily outside your Local Health Office 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 should apply to the Local Health Office of that area for a medical card. If you move to a different part of your own Local Health Office area, you can apply to change your doctor.

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 clientregistration@hse.ie. 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:
Medical Card/GP Visit Card Application form.
Medical Card/GP Visit Card Application form for people aged 70 or older.

You can also get the application form and a list of participating GPs from your local health centre or Local Health Office for your area. 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.

Appeals

If you have been refused a medical card and are not satisfied with the decision, you may have it reviewed. Your circumstances may have changed or you may have left out some relevant information from the original application. If you are not satisfied with the review you may make an appeal to the Appeals Office for your HSE Area. The contact details will also be contained in your letter of refusal. The Appeals Office will conduct a reassessment of your application. This will be conducted by HSE staff who were not involved in deciding on your original application.

Where to Apply


P.O Box 11745
Finglas
Dublin 11
Ireland
Locall:1890 252 919
Fax:(01) 834 3589
Website: SSPCRS.IE
Email: clientregistration@hse.ie

Assessment guidelines

The HSE has published assessment guidelines for medical card applications:

Entitlement under EU Regulations

If you are getting a social security pension from another EU/EEA country or Switzerland, or if you are working and paying social insurance in one of these countries, you may qualify for a medical card under EU rules if you are ordinarily resident in ireland. You must not be subject to Irish social security legislation. This means that you must not be in receipt of a contributory Irish social welfare payment or be working in Ireland and be liable to pay PRSI. If you are living in Ireland and you are the dependant of a pensioner entitled under EU Regulations, or are the dependant of a person who is working in another country covered by the Regulations, you may be eligible for a medical card. You must not be subject to Irish social security legislation (in the case of child dependants this rule applies to the spouse or person looking after them). Posted workers and their dependants may also qualify for the medical card. These are workers who are employed in another country covered by the regulations but are sent by their employers to work in Ireland for a limited time. See the assessment guidelines for more information about entitlement under EU Regulations.

Long Term Illness

Long Term Illness Scheme

People suffering from certain conditions can get free drugs, medicines and medical and surgical appliances for the treatment of that condition. These are provided under the Long Term Illness Scheme. This scheme is administered by the Health Service Executive (HSE), under Section 59 of the Health Act 1970. The Long Term Illness Scheme does not depend on your income or other circumstances. You may also be eligible for a Medical Card or GP Visit Card, depending on your circumstances. The medical conditions that qualify under the Long Term Illness Scheme are:

  • Mental handicap
  • Mental illness (for people under 16 only)
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Haemophilia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Epilepsy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spina bifida
  • Muscular dystrophies
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Parkinsonism
  • Acute leukaemia
  • Conditions arising from use of Thalidomide

If you qualify, you will get a long-term illness book. This book lists the drugs and medicines for the treatment of your condition, which will be provided to you free of charge through your pharmacist. You do not have to pay a prescription charge for drugs covered by your long-term illness book. Other drugs and medicines not related to the specified condition must be paid for in the normal way. If your doctor or occupational therapist prescribes a medical or surgical appliance, it will be supplied to you from your Local Health Office. Non-medical card holders, non-GP Visit Card holders and conditions not covered under Long Term Illness If you have neither a medical card, nor a GP Visit Card nor a medical condition listed above, you can use the Drugs Payment Scheme to limit your expenses on prescription drugs.

Drug Payment Scheme

Under the Drugs Payment Scheme you have to pay a maximum of 144 a month ( January 2013) for approved prescribed drugs, medicines and certain appliances for use by yourself and your family in that month. If a reference price has been set for drugs you are prescribed, this is the price that the HSE will use to calculate your monthly drugs costs. In order to qualify for this scheme, you must be ordinarily resident in Ireland. The scheme covers the person who applied, his or her spouse/partner and children under 18 years or under 23 if in full-time education. A dependant with a physical or mental disability/illness living in the household who does not have a Medical Card and who is unable to fully maintain himself/herself, may be included in the family expenditure regardless of age. When you register for the scheme, your Local Health Office will issue a plastic swipe card for each person named on the registration form. You should present this card whenever you are having prescriptions filled. Further information is available from your Local Health Office.

Using the Card

You do not have to register with a particular pharmacy for the scheme but for convenience it is advisable to use the same pharmacy in a particular month if you wish to avoid paying more than the maximum 144. Where people need to use two or more pharmacies in one month, they can claim back the amount paid over the threshold from their Local Health Office. You can use the Drugs Payment Scheme along with a Long Term Illness Book.

Expired Drugs Payment Scheme Cards

Drugs Payment Scheme Cards are issued for a limited time (generally 5 years). When your Card expires, you must apply again to obtain a new card. You can get the forms from your local pharmacy or from your Local Health Office.

Lost or stolen Drugs Payment Scheme Cards

If your Drugs Payment Scheme Card is lost, stolen or damaged, you should contact your Local Health Office.

How to Apply?

The registration form is available from pharmacies or from your Local Health Office. You can also download the DPS Application form here. If you have any difficulties in completing the form, staff in your local pharmacy or Local Health Office will be happy to provide advice and assistance. Send the completed application to your Local Health Office. Your application for a new Card can take up to 4 weeks to process. If you have any qualifying expenses during this time, keep your receipts until you receive your Card, then send the receipts to the Drugs Payments Scheme Division of your Local Health Office with a covering note.