If you’re thinking about crossing the Irish Sea and making the Emerald Isle your home, fáilte! (congratulations!)

There’s plenty to get excited about when it comes to living in Ireland, but before you move, you’ll want to make sure your healthcare is sorted.

If you want to join the 2.3 million people in Ireland who have private health insurance, we recommend Cigna.

The company helps more than 95 million customers all over the world, and they have the know-how to get you the right cover too.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Irish healthcare: key stats

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    % of people in Ireland have private health insurance
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    average life expectancy
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    doctors per 10,000 people

The healthcare system in Ireland

Ireland has a public healthcare system, run since 2005 by the government-funded Health Service Executive (HSE), alongside private care options.

You and your dependents can access public care if you’ve lived in Ireland for a year or longer, or if you manage to convince the authorities that you intend to do so.

There are three tiers of public healthcare you can belong to, based largely on how much you earn.

This is how they work.

a photo of Dublin

Beautiful Dublin, glowing here in the golden hour

People with medical cards

Those with the lowest incomes are eligible for a medical card. This covers 37.1% of people in Ireland, according to government data.

A single person living alone can only qualify for a medical card if they earn a maximum of €184 (£166) per week. That’s £8,632 per year.

Medical cards cover almost all health services, including GP appointments, prescription costs, out- and in-patient services, eye and ear tests, and basic dental care.

People with GP visit cards

If you’re over 70 years old or under six, you qualify automatically for a GP visit card, which allows you to see your doctor for free.

Otherwise, access is based on your income, at a higher rate than medical cards. For instance, a single person living alone can earn up to €304 (£274) per week (which adds up to £14,248 per year) and qualify.

Around 500,000 people – 10% of the population – have GP visit cards, according to the latest reports.

Everyone else

If you don’t have a medical card or GP visit card, you’ll have to pay a fee for seeing your doctor – usually somewhere between €40 and €60 (£36 and £54).

You may also face what the Irish government calls ‘Hospital Charges’.

For in-patient care, you may be charged €80 (£72) per day, up to a maximum of €800 (£720) over a rolling 12-month period.

You may be excused from paying a fee for a number of reasons for example, if you’re receiving maternity care, being treated for COVID-19, or if you’re six weeks old or younger. A full list of exceptions is available on the HSE’s website.

If you require out-patient services, there is a flat €100 (£90) charge, unless you’ve been referred by your GP.

Again, there are other exceptions, including those with COVID-19, and children with certain conditions.

Long-stay patients have their charges capped at different amounts, depending on their income.

Is healthcare in Ireland free?

Not entirely. Most care is free or subsidised, but the majority of people will pay healthcare costs over the course of a year.

37% of people in Ireland have a medical card, which allows them to access most services for free.

Everyone else has a choice of sticking with public healthcare and paying costs when they come up, or going private and paying premiums for a policy that will protect them from disastrous charges.

The average person in Ireland ends up spending £497 per year on out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure, on average, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

How is healthcare funded in Ireland?

Annual healthcare expenditure in Ireland adds up to €21.1 billion (£19.1 billion), which is 7.2% of Ireland’s GDP – noticeably less than the UK’s 9.6%.

The Irish government is responsible for 73% of this figure, according to a 2019 Central Statistics Office Ireland report, which is unfortunately less than the UK government’s 78%.

The Irish government doesn’t have a specific tax which funds the healthcare system, instead drawing the funds from general taxation.

Another 14% comes out of the pockets of people who pay for private health insurance, while out-of-pocket expenditure makes up the remaining 12%.

Is healthcare in Ireland good?

A 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that Ireland provided the 11th best healthcare in the world.

That’s 12 places above the UK, and there are many reasons to believe you’ll receive superior care on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Ireland has more hospital beds per person than the UK, according to the OECD, and a lower child mortality rate, according to the World Bank.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Ireland also has a lower avoidable mortality rate, diabetes rate, and rate of self-reported poor health among its citizens, according to a different OECD report.

There are also 30.9 doctors per 10,000 people, placing Ireland above nations including Norway, the US, and the UK, which has 28 doctors per person.

Ireland’s figure is also going up – the country had 10,018 doctors in 2019, a 37.8% increase since 2010, according to Irish Department of Health data.

Ireland has managed to pull all of this off while spending 7.2% of its GDP on healthcare – noticeably less than the UK’s 10%.

Waiting times

However, Ireland loses out to the UK – by a distance – when it comes to waiting times.

The majority of people in Ireland have to wait more than three months for cataract surgery, hip replacements, and knee replacements, according to a 2018 OECD report.

In contrast, most patients in the UK are seen within the first three months for all three of these common surgical procedures.

Basically, you can expect to enjoy top-notch healthcare services in Ireland – but you may have to wait a while.

sheep by a road in ireland

There are more than 3.9 million sheep in Ireland. This is one of them

Healthcare in Ireland for non-citizens

 

Healthcare in Ireland for UK citizens

If you move to Ireland before the end of 2020, and you intend to live there for at least a year, you may be eligible for a medical card or GP visit card.

If you don’t qualify for these programmes, you should register with the Irish authorities to pay the same for public healthcare as any other resident.

Contact the Embassy of Ireland to check whether you’ll need to get a Public Personal Service number before you apply.

You should also call HMRC to check if you qualify as a posted worker, which applies when your British company has decided to relocate you to Ireland.

This may mean you can get your healthcare paid for by the UK government for the foreseeable future – as long as you move to Ireland before 2020.

Healthcare in Ireland after Brexit

It’s official – the UK has left the EU. Thankfully, this change won’t impact Ireland’s healthcare system, since both the Irish and British Governments have committed to maintaining the existing healthcare arrangements under the Common Travel Area (CTA).

The CTA means that Irish and UK residents can move freely between the two countries to either live, work, or access public services – including planned treatment and emergency healthcare – on the same basis as British citizens.

Irish citizens who take up residence in the UK from 1 January 2021, dual Irish-British citizens, and people of Northern Ireland can also apply for the new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This will allow access to state-provided healthcare at the same cost as local residents while visiting other EU countries.

Existing EHIC cards will continue to be valid until their expiry date, after which UK residents should apply for a replacement GHIC card.

Do you need private health insurance in Ireland?

Ireland has an excellent healthcare system, so your answer to this question comes down to time, money, and personal preference.

Private insurance is more expensive than public healthcare, but it does give you a guarantee that you’ll be able to quickly access the best level of care if the worst happens.

46% of people in Ireland have private coverage and if you want the same peace of mind they have, we recommend Cigna.

Helping more than 95 million customers all over the world, Cigna has the know-how to get you just the right cover.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Benefits of private medical cover in Ireland

  • Significantly shorter waiting times
  • Peace of mind in the face of unknown future disasters
  • You can budget your healthcare spending in advance
  • Privacy

How much is private health insurance in Ireland?

If you’re older than 26, a private health insurance plan that includes in-patient and out-patient care will cost you around €835 (£753) per year.

Considering you’ll be spending, on average, £497 per year in out-of-pocket healthcare costs anyway, it’s worth considering whether peace of mind and a better level of care is worth the extra expense.

You can easily compare private and public plans by using a comparison tool launched by the Health Insurance Authority, which is an Irish government body.

If you’ve already decided that private health insurance is sensible before your move to Ireland, we recommend Cigna.

With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for greater flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote today.

How much does health insurance cost in Ireland for a family?

A comprehensive private health insurance plan will cost around €2,056 (£1,854) per year for two adults over the age of 26 with two children, according to the government’s comparison tool.

This may not be too much more than your family pays out of pocket over the course of a year – plus there are cheaper options, particularly if you don’t mind receiving private care in a public hospital.

Policies of that kind are available for as little as €1,246 (£1,124) per year.

Summary

Ireland’s public healthcare system is highly rated, but it’s usually not free, meaning you may well end up paying a troubling amount in unforeseen costs – and the country’s record on waiting times is pretty poor.

That’s why we’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in Ireland.

With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for greater flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.

Start building that plan today.

And if you want to learn more about your wonderful new home in Éire, be sure to check out our guide to moving to Ireland.