The Irish Healthcare System

irish healthcare

The healthcare system in Ireland is a complex and multifaceted system. Public healthcare is funded through general taxation, whereas private insurance is available for people who want it.

Irish citizens are entitled to free or subsidized hospital care. They can also access subsidised prescription drugs, maternity care, community services and personal social services.

Public healthcare

In Ireland, everyone living in the country is entitled to state healthcare. This includes UK citizens who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Almost all public medical services are free for eligible people, including GP visits and hospital stays. Some costs may be charged, but these are subsidised by general taxation.

However, even those with a medical card face huge financial strain when it comes to cancer treatment. This is particularly true for patients who do not meet the strict medical card income limits or can’t afford private health insurance.

The cost of cancer care in Ireland is often staggering – from medications, GP visits, specialist dressings, travel, wigs and additional dental care. It’s an overwhelming burden for many patients, especially lone parent families.

Private healthcare

Ireland’s public healthcare system is ranked among the best in Europe, and it’s free to anyone who meets certain criteria. However, only 30% of people can access health services for free, and the cost of treatment is surprisingly high, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Private healthcare in Ireland remains popular, with nearly 40% of its residents opting for some kind of cover. This is largely due to the long waiting times experienced by patients on the public system, which can make private hospital care a more attractive option.

There are four main private health insurance providers in Ireland. Irish Life Health, Laya Healthcare, VHI Healthcare and HSF offer both full insurance and cash benefit plans, and all are regulated by the Health Insurance Authority. They each have a comparison tool to help you find the right plan for your needs and budget.

Residency requirements

The public healthcare system in Ireland is run by the Health Service Executive (HSE). Those who meet certain eligibility requirements are granted medical cards that allow them to access a wide range of services for free.

These include prescription medicines and hospital care. They can also receive help paying for dental and maternity treatments, among others.

Expats who come to Ireland for work, study or retirement should be able to take advantage of the public healthcare system right away, as long as they can prove that they intend to stay in Ireland for at least one year. The HSE will then give them either full or limited benefits depending on their means.

If you decide to stay for a longer period of time, it’s a good idea to opt for a private healthcare insurance plan. A large number of expats in Ireland – and the local population – use this cover to avoid waiting lists for public healthcare.


If you’re a non-citizen of Ireland, but have family ties to the country, you may be entitled to Irish citizenship by descent. This is a legal process that allows you to obtain full citizenship rights, which include full unrestricted access to State freedoms and the right to apply for an Irish passport.

Citizenship in Ireland is a major step in becoming part of the Irish community. It is the only way that you can enjoy all of the rights, entitlements and supports on a fully equal basis with all other Irish people.

To qualify for citizenship, you must have a legal right of residence in the country for at least three out of the four years prior to your application. This can be through a long-term visa, an international protection application, marriage to an Irish citizen or through naturalisation.