Health insurance in Ireland
Securing a private health insurance plan in Ireland is something everyone should consider - whether you are planning to visit or move to the country. If you do not know where to begin, this guide will prove useful to you. Find out about Ireland’s healthcare system, health insurance landscape, as well as handy travel tips by reading on. Alternatively, click below for a free and no-obligation quote.
The Republic of Ireland is located on the southern part of the island of Ireland, occupying 26 out of 32 counties. It shares a land border with Northern Ireland, consisting of the remaining 6 counties, which is part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland, simply referred to as Ireland in this guide, is home to 4.9 million people, the majority of which live in the capital and largest city - Dublin. It is a European Union (EU) member and uses the Euro currency. From picturesque harbor villages in County Cork to the wilderness of County Donegal’s national parks, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Ireland. When it comes to healthcare, the Irish system offers a modern and reasonably efficient medical treatment.
Healthcare system in Ireland
Ireland has a government-funded public healthcare system that is available to all residents, regardless of citizenship or payment into the Irish tax system. Even though the country is considered to have universal coverage, the health services are only truly free for those who hold a “medical card”. In addition to the public healthcare system, Ireland is also home to some leading private hospitals. Offering shorter wait times at a premium cost, the private healthcare sector is accessible to those who can pay up front or have a private health insurance plan.
Public healthcare system
The public healthcare system in Ireland is of very high quality, but often criticized for being overcrowded and overbooked. Patients often face long wait times, even for urgent procedures. While the public healthcare system is much more affordable than its private counterpart, only about a third of the population have a medical card and can access various healthcare services for free.
According to the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland, residents who can access healthcare in public hospitals include those who fall into the following categories:
- Living in Ireland for at least one year will be entitled to either full eligibility (Category 1) or limited eligibility (Category 2) for health services.
- Living in Ireland for less than one year, but intend to remain in the country for a minimum of one year. Dependents of such individuals must also prove their eligibility.
With the exception of emergencies, you will need a referral from your general practitioner before you can be admitted to a public hospital or clinic for treatment.
An Irish resident will only get full eligibility for health services if they hold a valid medical card.
- Category 1 - Residents with Medical Cards
Those with a medical card do not have to pay to see a doctor or for prescribed medication. It also covers public out-patient and in-patient services, eye and ear tests, and dental checks. Being eligible for a medical card typically depends on your income, expenses, marital status, and dependents.
- Category 2 - Residents without Medical Cards
Those without medical cards can still access a wide range of community and hospital medical services, either free of charge or at a reduced cost. There are different types of hospital charges. Furthermore, patients who choose private in-patient services in public hospitals are liable for a range of private accommodation charges.
Private healthcare system
Ireland’s private healthcare sector is also a thriving one, with a range of hospitals on offer. Charges are usually quite high, so those without private health insurance may be asked to pay a deposit in advance. Often, this can be the full cost of treatment and accommodation. It is advisable to check with different private hospitals for quotations before committing to a consultation or treatment.
Voluntary, Private and Hi-tech hospitals
In addition to public hospitals, Ireland also has voluntary, private, and hi-tech hospitals. Voluntary hospitals are mostly government-funded, though some are privately operated. When it comes to the latter two, there are slight distinctions. As the name implies, “high tech” hospitals tend to offer more advanced and specialized equipment than standard private hospitals.
“High tech” hospitals are also renowned for their treatment of complex conditions including cardiac, oncology, and orthopedic conditions. The three hospitals are Blackrock Clinic, Mater Private, and Beacon Hospital. Generally speaking, “high tech” hospitals only tend to be covered by the most expensive private health insurance plans.
Private health insurance
There are four private health insurance companies in Ireland, which are all regulated by the Health Insurance Authority (HIA). These include The Hospital Saturday Fund (HSF) Health Plan, Irish Life Health, Laya Healthcare, and VHi Healthcare. In terms of average yearly costs, it is just under 2,000 Euros for a private health insurance plan.
Irish residents typically take out a private health insurance plan if they are not Medical Card holders, prefer private healthcare over the public alternative, or want to avoid lengthy wait times without paying out of pocket. For many of them, private health insurance is also provided by their employer.
Ireland travel tips
Ireland is not part of the Schengen travel area, so non-EU/EEA visitors are advised to check the necessary visa requirements prior to traveling. For some nationalities, UK tourist visas are also valid in Ireland under the country’s Short Stay Visa Waiver Program.
In general, most visits to Ireland are trouble-free. It is also considered safe for female and LGBT visitors. Travelers are advised to take all necessary precautions, such as keeping an eye on belongings when in crowded areas. For emergency services, you can contact 112 or 999.
The Irish Tourist Assistance Service (ITAS) provides free support to victims of crimes, liaising with travel companies and financial institutions and, in emergencies, arranging for accommodation and transport. However, visitors should first go to the local police station for any crimes committed.
For short term visitors from the EU/EEA, you can access healthcare in Ireland using your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). All other short term visitors are encouraged to take out a travel insurance plan.
Please note that the information on this page is not fully comprehensive and is subject to change without prior warning. It is advisable to consult with the local Irish embassy should you have any doubts before you depart on your journey.
Securing private health insurance for expats in Ireland
Even though private health insurance is not mandatory for expats in Ireland, owing to all residents being allowed access to the public healthcare system, securing it remains a popular option for many. Here at Pacific Prime, we provide expat health insurance to foreign nationals in Ireland.
If you want higher level coverage, including access to “high-tech” hospitals, we can help you find Ireland health insurance policies with no deductibles or excesses. Furthermore, we can help you obtain extra benefits, such as coverage for outpatient treatment, dental, vision, maternity, and even things like emergency evacuation.
A number of our plans are also globally portable and renewable life, meaning that you will always have the coverage you need. It does not matter if you develop a pre-existing condition, make a lot of claims, or even decide to leave Ireland, your health insurance plan will still be valid.
For a free quote or insurance advice, contact us today!