What is a medical card?
If you have a medical card, you can get certain health services free of charge. Usually, your dependent spouse or partner and your children can also get the same range of health services for free.
Your medical card is issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Who can apply for a medical card?
If you are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland you can apply for a medical card. This means that you are living in Ireland and intend to live here for at least one year.
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 (see ‘How to qualify for a medical card’ below).
GP visit cards: If you do not qualify for a medical card on income grounds, you may qualify for a GP visit card.
Medical cards for people coming from other countries
If you are coming to Ireland from Ukraine under the Temporary Protection Directive, you may be entitled to a medical card immediately. There is a special medical card application form (pdf) for people from Ukraine. Read information from the HSE in Ukrainian and Russian.
If you are coming from a country in the European Union, United Kingdom or another non-EU country you can check if you can get a medical card and your entitlement to public health services in Ireland.
What services does the medical card cover?
You are entitled to many health services, other services and some prescription medicines with a medical card. You can check what is covered on our page Services for medical card and GP visit card holders.
How to qualify for a medical card
To qualify for a medical card, your weekly income must be under a certain amount. The HSE will complete a means test to check your income. Some people can qualify automatically without a means test, see ‘Qualifying without a means test’ below.
There are different guidelines for the means test depending on whether you are aged over or under 70. See:
The HSE assessment of a couple for medical cards is based on the age of the older person.
Who qualifies without a means test for a medical card or GP visit card?
|Medical card||GP visit card|
|People aged over 70||Means tested||✓|
|Children aged under 8||Means tested||✓|
|People getting Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit||Means tested||✓|
|People with EU entitlement||✓||n/a|
|Children aged under 18, diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years||✓||n/a|
|People who live in direct provision accommodation||✓||n/a|
|People affected by the drug Thalidomide||✓||n/a|
|Children in foster or residential care||✓||n/a|
|Women who have had a symphysiotomy||✓||n/a|
|Women who were resident in certain institutions||✓||n/a|
|Children whose parents get a Domiciliary Care Allowance||✓||n/a|
Discretionary medical card
If your income is above the limit, you may still be able to get a medical card if your circumstances would result in financial hardship without one. This is sometimes called a discretionary medical card.
The application process for the discretionary medical card is the same as for the means tested medical card, but you should also include information about your family’s medical expenses in your application.
How to apply for a medical card
If you have any questions before you send your application, you can phone 01 864 7100 or Lo-call 0818 22 44 78, contact your Local Health Office, or email email@example.com.
Apply online for a medical card
You can apply online for a medical card and GP visit card on mymedicalcard.ie. This is the quickest method of getting the card.
Apply by post for a medical card
Or you can download a medical card and GP visit card application form:
- MC1 Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form (pdf)
- MC1(a) Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form - People Aged 70 Years or Older (pdf) if you are aged over 70
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 return the form to the Client Registration Unit (address below), along with any documents required. If you are applying online, you can upload photos, scans or photocopies of the original documents specified on the form.
You can track the progress of your medical card application on the HSE website.
Selecting a doctor
The HSE have a list of doctors that accept medical card patients (pdf).
If you apply online, the HSE will contact the doctor you select and ask them to accept you as a medical card patient.
If you apply using the printed application form, you can call the GP that you have chosen from the list of participating doctors (pdf). Usually, the GP you select must be within 7 miles of where you live. If the GP agrees to accept you as a patient for medical card GP services, you can send them the form to sign.
If you use the printed application form and you have been a medical card patient within the last 6 months and you want to keep the same GP, you should state this on your form.
If your preferred participating GP cannot accept you as a medical card patient, they may not be currently accepting new patients and you should try another participating GP in your area (pdf).
If you are refused by 3 GPs, the HSE will assign a doctor to you. State this on your application, including the 3 names of declining GPs and their clinics. The GPs need to be based at three different clinics.
Medical cards for children and young people
If you have a medical card, your child is included as a dependent on that card and can get the same medical card services as you. If you do not qualify for a medical card, your child may still get a medical card if they:
- Are in residential care
- Living in Direct Provision
- Have been diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years
- Are in foster care
Adding an infant to your card
If you have a medical card and you have a baby, you can apply for a card for them if you are getting Child Benefit for your new baby.
To apply, send a cover note with:
- Your name, address,
- Your phone number,
- Your PPS number and your child's PPS number
- Your medical card details
- A photocopy of the child's birth certificate
Send your letter to the Medical Card Unit, see below for the address.
Medical cards for people aged 16 to 25, including students
If you are aged 16 to 25 and dependent on a parent or guardian, you are eligible for a medical card if your parent or guardian has a medical card.
If you are already included on your family's card, you will be sent your own card when you turn 16.
If you are not already included on your family’s card you must send in your own medical card application form (pdf) and your parents or guardians need to apply for you too. Send both applications together.
This does not apply if their income is above the means test limit and they have a discretionary medical card.
Applying for a medical card when aged 16 to 25
If you live with your parent or guardian and you have an income over the medical card income limit for a single person living with family, you are considered financially independent, and the usual means test applies. you must complete your own medical card application form (pdf).
If you are not living with or dependent on a parent or guardian, then you are considered as financially independent, regardless of income. You must complete your own medical card application form (pdf) and your application is assessed using the means test for people aged under 70.
Domiciliary Care Allowance
If you have a child for whom you are getting Domiciliary Care Allowance, the child is eligible for a medical card, without a means test.
If the child already has a medical card or GP visit card, you do not need to register; they will be automatically registered for a medical card.
Children diagnosed with cancer
Children under the age of 18 who have been diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years are eligible for a medical card without a means test. The application form does not require information about income but does require a medical report. You can download the Medical Card Application Form for Children under 18 years, Form MC1 (b) (pdf).
GP visit card for children under 8
If your child does not qualify for a medical card and is under 8, they can get a GP visit card for children under 8 without a means test. If your child is over 8 years, the GP visit card is means tested.
Appeals, reviews and managing your medical card
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 by the HSE periodically.
Medical card reviews
The HSE will ask you periodically to confirm your circumstances by completing an online review form. If you do not provide the information they ask for, your application cannot be re-assessed and your card may not be re-issued.
If you need a paper form, rather than the online review form, complete and return MC1 Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form (pdf). If you are aged over 70, the review notice you get will include a form that you can use instead of the online review form.
If you complete the review form by the given date but the review process continues past the expiry date of your card, the card’s validity may be extended so that you can continue to use it while the review is taking place. The extension is on a month-by-month basis so you should contact the Client Registration Unit to confirm that your card has been extended and continues to be valid.
Your medical card when you return 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. You will need to submit a new medical card application stating that you are applying on this basis. Your dependent family members may qualify to keep their card, even if they become employed during this 3 year period.
People taking part in certain government schemes may keep their medical cards while they are on the scheme. See the assessment guidelines (pdf) for the list of schemes.
Your medical card if you move house
You can use your medical card for up to 3 months if you are living temporarily in a different 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 do not have to re-apply for a new Medical Card. You should contact your new Local Health Office where you will be advised of the GPs practising in your new area.
If you are changing your GP, you complete a Change of Doctor Form (pdf), giving details of the new doctor. The form is available online or by phoning Lo-call 0818 22 44 78.
Appealing if you are refused a medical card
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. 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. You can read about appealing a medical card decision on the HSE website.
Read about what services you can get with a medical card.
If you are aged under 70 check if you can apply under the means test for a medical card or GP visit card for under 70s.
If you are aged over 70 check if you are eligible under the means test for people aged over 70.
Read about prescription charges for medical card holders.
You can find more information on the medical card and GP visit card on the HSE website. You can find further detail in the HSE Assessment Guidelines for medical cards and GP visit cards.