Am I entitled to medical care if I move to Ireland to retire?

Ask the Experts: I’ve lived all my life in America, but I’m an Irish citizen

Question:

I’d like to know what sort of medical coverage I might get if I move to Ireland. I am retired and in my 70s. I have not lived in Ireland before but I am an Irish citizen through my mother. I have lived all my life in America, but have always dreamed of going back to Galway, where she was from.

Answer: Judy McAvoy, Crosscare Migrant Project

Once you are “ordinarily resident” in Ireland, you are entitled to access public healthcare services in the same way as any other resident of Ireland and with the same charges (eg approximately €60 to visit a G,P or €100 to attend the emergency room).

“Ordinarily resident” means that you intend to reside permanently in the Republic of Ireland for at least one year. Generally, proof of an Irish address is enough to show this. Alternatively, a lease or proof of owning a property or, in some cases, an affidavit swearing your intentions will be enough to prove this.

This means that you can be found to be ordinarily resident immediately, even if you have just moved over to Ireland, so long as you can show you are planning to stay for at least a year, and intend to spend at least eight months of that year actually living here.

Depending on your income, once you are ordinarily resident, you may be entitled to access further benefits.

Medical Card: A medical card entitles you to access most public health services free of charge. This includes visits to your GP, the emergency room and many medical procedures. Prescription medication can be accessed at a cost of €2 per item. The medical card is generally means-tested, regardless of your age. However, once you are over 70 years old, the income level for the medical card means test changes. See www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health for more details.

GP Visit Cards: A GP visit card entitles you only to see your doctor free of charge. It is means-tested if you are between the ages of six and 69 (inclusive). The means test for the GP visit card is different to the test for the medical card, so if your income is low, but slightly too high for a medical card, you may be offered a GP visit card instead.

Children under six and adults who are 70 or older are entitled to a non-means-tested GP visit card, so long as they are ordinarily resident in Ireland. As such, you should qualify for this automatically once you are living here.

For comprehensive information on these benefits, read the guide to medical and GP visit cards here: www.hse.ie/eng/services/publications/corporate/medcardgpvisit.pdf or visit: www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health/medical_cards_and_gp_visit_cards.

Private healthcare: If you have the means to do so, getting private health insurance may be something to consider. The public health system often has long waiting periods for referrals to specialists and for the scheduling of medical tests, scans and procedures. You would need to contact individual providers for information on their plans and your eligibility. Be aware that you may be subject to a waiting period before you can avail of health insurance cover in Ireland (see www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/abroad/will-health-insurance-cost-me-a-fortune-on-returning-to-ireland-1.2974143 for more on this). You may find the Health Insurance Authority website useful for comparing coverage: www.hia.ie.

Judy McAvoy is the information and advocacy officer with Crosscare Migrant Project. They are funded by the Emigrant Support Programme of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide supports to Irish people emigrating from and returning to Ireland. See migrantproject.ie

READ MORE