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Healthcare in Ireland is modern, safe and among the best in the world. Expats living in Ireland usually qualify for free or subsidised public health services, which are funded by the government.
Ireland's two-tier system means that expats in Ireland can choose to use either the government-funded public healthcare system or the private system, for which fees must be paid in full.
Public healthcare in Ireland
Public hospitals in Ireland are either owned and funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) or are voluntary public hospitals that may be privately operated but are funded by the government.
The public system, although providing similar quality of care to that found in private hospitals, is overbooked and waiting lists can be long, even for operations that demand some urgency.
Anyone who is classified as 'ordinarily resident' in Ireland has access to publicly funded healthcare. However, expats should note that public healthcare in Ireland is not completely free of charge. Some treatments require a subsidised fee for patients who do not have a Medical Card, which is allocated according to an individual’s income, age, illness and/or disability.
EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.
Private healthcare in Ireland
Private hospitals in Ireland operate independently of the state and require patients to pay the full cost of treatment. We therefore recommend that expats either negotiate a healthcare subsidy with their employer, or ensure that their salary package is large enough to cover private healthcare insurance if it is their preference.
Private healthcare can also be provided in public hospitals through the designation of private beds. Patients who opt for private healthcare in public facilities are required to pay for all hospital services as well as doctors' fees.
Health insurance in Ireland
If one doesn't qualify for a Medical Card, the Irish government provides other options for obtaining free or subsidised care, such as GP Visit Cards and the Long-Term Illness Scheme.
Despite subsidised treatment, many Irish citizens and most expats opt for private health insurance in Ireland. Private insurance allows patients to receive immediate treatment, but expats should check whether an overseas provider is accepted by private hospitals in Ireland before signing up. As mentioned, some employers may pay for private health insurance, and expats should try to negotiate this into their employment package.
Medicines and pharmacies in Ireland
Pharmacies are widely available in Irish towns and cities. However, some areas may not have any 24-hour pharmacies, although some pharmacies do stay open late into the evening.
Prescription medications are provided free of charge to those with a Medical Card. If ordinarily resident in Ireland, expats can apply for the Drugs Payment Scheme. The scheme puts a cap on how much residents can pay for prescription drugs with any cost above the cap covered by the government.
Emergency services in Ireland
Both public and private hospitals have Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments for serious emergencies. Expats can dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance in an emergency. Patients without a Medical Card may be charged for A&E services.
►See Healthcare in Dublin for a list of hospitals in the city
"My experience regarding healthcare is positive. I have had some problems with my health in the past and the care has been excellent. I can’t complain about the public health system in Ireland. In my view, the main difference between the two healthcare systems is the waiting time to have an appointment." For more, read Alejandra's interview.
Are you an expat living in Ireland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ireland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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