Where are my health entitlements?

A series of articles by various writers on medical topics this one is by Edel Rooney.

I recently moved to Ireland from Poland and I can’t yet afford to pay for health insurance. Can you tell me what my health entitlements are or let me know what I might have to pay if I become ill here?


Everyone, regardless of nationality, who is ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to free treatment in public beds in Health Service Executive (HSE) hospitals and voluntary hospitals. Certain visitors to Ireland are also eligible. Some people may have to pay some hospital charges but holders of medical cards are exempt. To find out if you are entitled to a medical card, ask for an application at your Local Health Office.

A medical card will also cover visits to your local GP, which otherwise will cost approximately €60.

Accident and Emergency

If you attend the accident and emergency or casualty department of a public

hospital without being referred there by a GP, you will be charged €100. There is no charge if you have been referred. Medical card holders, people with diagnosed infectious diseases and women receiving maternity treatment are also exempt from this charge. The HSE has the discretion to reduce or waive all charges entirely in cases of hardship.

If you have to return to the A&E again in relation to the same injury or illness, you shouldn’t have to pay the charge again.

In-patient services

If you are admitted to hospital under the care of a consultant, the overnight charge is €75 per day up to a maximum of €750 in any 12-month period.

If you have been an in-patient for more than 30 days within the previous 12 months, you will be liable for long-stay charges. The maximum charge for anyone in public long-stay care is €153.25 per week. If you are in hospital for more than 30 days and a doctor certifies that you do not need medically acute care and treatment you may be charged as if you were receiving long-term residential care services.


Approved prescribed drugs and medicines are free of charge for medical card holders and people with Hepatitis C who have Health Amendment Act Cards. People with certain long-term illnesses may also get approved prescribed drugs and medicines for those illnesses free of charge.

Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, individuals or families who are registered with their Local Health Office pay only a maximum of €120 per calendar month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines.

Maternity services

Any expectant mother ordinarily resident in Ireland is entitled to a free programme of care provided by a combination of your chosen GP and a hospital obstetrician.

The GP provides an initial examination, if possible before 12 weeks, and a further six examinations during the pregnancy. These are alternated with visits to the maternity hospital. If you have a significant illness such as diabetes or hypertension, you may have up to five additional visits to the GP.

After the birth, the GP will examine the baby at two weeks and both mother and baby at six weeks.

The mother is entitled to free in-patient and out-patient public hospital services during the birth and is not liable for any of the hospital charges.

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