HSE Schemes: Medical Cards image

HSE Schemes: Medical Cards


What is a Medical Card?

A Medical Card is a plastic card, about the size of a credit card, issued by the HSE. People who hold a Medical Card are entitled to a range of Health Services free of charge.



What Health Services are available Free of Charge if I have a Medical Card?

You are entitled to the following services if you have a Medical Card:

  • Doctor Visits - a range of family doctor or GP services from a chosen doctor contracted to the HSE in your local area;
  • Prescription Medicines: The supply of prescribed approved medicines, aids and appliances like wheelchairs, crutches etc.
  • In some circumstances a deposit may be required for aids and appliances which will be refunded on return of the aid or appliance. A €2.50 charge applies to all prescription medicines dispensed to medical card patients;
  • Certain Dental, Ophthalmic (Eye), and Aural (Ear) health services;
  • Hospital Care - all in-patient services in public wards in public hospitals, including public consultant services;
  • Hospital Visits - All out-patient services in public hospitals, including public consultant services;
  • Medical & Midwifery Care for Mothers, including health care related to pregnancy and the care of the child for six weeks after birth;
  • Some personal and social care services, for example, public health nursing, social work services and other community care services based on client need.


You may also be entitled to the following additional benefits if you have a Medical Card:

  • No need to pay the health portion of your social insurance (PRSI)
  • Free transport to school for children who live 3 miles or more from the nearest school
  • Exemption from state examination fees in public second-level schools
  • Financial help with buying school books. The benefits above are available from the relevant government department.

The HSE is committed to ensuring that everyone who is eligible for a medical card received one as quickly as possible and that those who are no longer eligible do not continue to hold cards. If you are not eligible for a medical card, you may be eligible for a GP Visit Card or the Long Term Illness Scheme.

Am I Entitled to a Medical Card?

Anyone over the age of 16 years who is ordinarily resident in the State can apply for a Medical Card. If you are financial dependent on your parents or guardians, your parents or guardians need to apply for a medical card.



Medical card eligibility is based on an assessment of means.

To qualify your weekly income must be below the income threshold. Any income, savings, investments and property (except for your own home) are taken into account in the means test. It is important that you give as much information as possible with your application; including dependents, mortgage payments, medical expenses etc.


You can qualify for a Medical Card under the following three main categories:


1. To Qualify for a Medical Card by Means Testing

  • If your only income is a means tested Social Welfare Allowance, you will qualify for a Medical Card.
  • You will also be eligible for a Medical Card if your income and your spouse/partner's income is below our income guidelines.
  • Your income includes any income, property (but not your own home), investments and savings.
  • When we make an assessment for a Medical Card, we only assess you and your spouse's or partner's income after Tax and PRSI are deducted.
  • We also make allowances for rent and mortgage payments, for childcare expenses, and travel to work expenses.
  • Income or possible income from property is taken into account less any necessary associated costs.

2. To Qualify for a Medical Card on the Grounds of Hardship

  • If your income is above the HSE income guidelines for your circumstances, you may still be entitled to a Medical Card on the grounds that paying for your medical costs causes you undue financial hardship.
  • Such an example would be if you had an ongoing medical condition that required exceptional and regular medical treatment, or visits to the doctor or hospital.
  • If the cost of this would cause you undue financial hardship, then you may get a card on these grounds.
  • The HSE always considers other exceptional circumstances where a person or family has personal or social issues causing undue financial hardship.
  • The card may be granted for the whole family, or for individual members of a family on the grounds of undue financial hardship.

3. To Qualify for a Medical Card by Automatic Entitlement

Certain people who are ordinarily resident in Ireland may automatically qualify for a Medical Card. You may automatically qualify for a Medical Card if you are among the following groups:


  • You have EU entitlement under EU Regulations 883/04 (further details are provided below)
  • You may be entitled to retain Medical Card eligibility if you are participating in certain government schemes
  • A person affected by the drug Thalidomide
  • A person who has had a surgical Symphysiotomy.
  • This means that you will not be subject to financial assessment but will still need to complete an application form.