Ireland has a mixed public and private health care system. While the government has backed several initiatives to boost primary healthcare, such as the National Treatment Purchase Fund, there remains a gap between policy intent and practice.
The government subsidizes medical care through schemes such as GP Visit Cards and the Long Term Illness Scheme, but most Irish people opt for private insurance to avoid lengthy waitlists.
Ireland’s public healthcare system is managed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and funded through general taxation. It offers a wide range of services to ordinary residents, including maternity services and child care up to the age of six.
However, waiting lists are often long and many public hospitals are over-crowded. As a result, many Irish citizens opt for private healthcare instead.
Expats may be eligible for free or subsidised healthcare in Ireland if they are considered “ordinarily resident” as defined by the government. To apply for this, they must produce a Medical Card issued by the HSE.
Although Ireland’s public healthcare system is free of charge, it is not without its problems. It is overbooked and waiting lists can be long, even for surgeries that demand some urgency.
In Ireland, the public healthcare system provides everyone with entitlement to acute hospital care, free of charge if their family income is below a set low-income threshold. In addition, GP Visit Cards and the Long-Term Illness Scheme provide subsidised or free services for those on a low income and some with disabilities.
There is also an active private health insurance market in Ireland. The four main private health insurers are VHI (part-owned by the Irish government), Aviva, Laya Healthcare and Irish Life Health.
Although there are a number of ways to get free or subsidised care in Ireland, the majority of people opt for private cover. This is because it allows them to access treatment quickly and avoid lengthy waiting lists. The benefits include a greater choice of specialist hospitals, cover for additional medical costs and private or semi-private accommodation in hospital.
All residents of Ireland are entitled to access the public healthcare system, which is managed by the Health Service Executive (HSE). This includes GP visits, free general practitioner care and prescription medicines, and some hospital services.
Those below certain income thresholds are also eligible to obtain what is known as a Medical Card, which entitles them to free hospital and GP care. This applies to welfare recipients, low-income earners and many retirees.
Individuals who are not residents of the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland or UK may be eligible to purchase private healthcare insurance if they can prove that they intend to stay in Ireland for at least a year. This can be shown by a work permit or visa, statements from employers and proof of property ownership or rental.
However, these policies do not cover all of your healthcare needs. You will still need to pay for any specialised treatment that is not covered under your policy. Alternatively, you can opt to use public hospitals or get specialised treatment abroad.
The cost of private healthcare in Ireland is relatively low compared to other countries, especially when comparing it with the United States. This is because almost half of the population in Ireland pays for private health insurance, which is one of the highest levels in the OECD.
However, the public healthcare system is overstretched and has long waiting times. This can make it a frustrating experience for expatriates to visit Irish hospitals if you don’t have private insurance.
To help reduce costs, the Irish government offers free or subsidised care to certain residents. Those who receive welfare payments, low earners and retirees are eligible for a Medical Card. These cards entitle holders to free hospital care, GP visits, dental services, optical services, aural services and prescription drugs.