What are Medical Cards and who can get one?

A Medical Card is issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and allows the holders to receive certain health services free of charge, including a number of eyecare services. Normally your dependent spouse or partner and your children are also covered.

Anyone who has been living in, and intends to live in, Ireland for at least one year (otherwise known as ‘ordinarily resident’) is eligible to apply for a Medical Card. In order to qualify, your weekly income must be below a certain figure, which is calculated via a means test specific to your circumstances.¹

It is possible that you automatically qualify if any of the following applies to you:

  • Are participating in certain government schemes
  • Have been affected by the drug thalidomide
  • Have had a surgical symphysiotomy
  • Are a child diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years
  • Are in foster care
  • Live in direct provision
  • Qualify under EU Regulations²

For any of the above, you won’t be subject to a financial assessment, but you will still need to apply

How is the financial threshold calculated?

To pass the financial test your weekly net earnings must be below a specific financial threshold calculated by adding together a basic rate (a fixed amount determined by your age, marital status, living situation and children), an amount allocated to any dependants, and an amount for allowable expenses.¹

The final calculated figure becomes the maximum amount you can earn as your weekly net income in order to qualify for a Medical Card.

There are also special guidelines for certain age categories: 

Special CategoryGuidelines
16 to 25⁶ - If your guardians received a Medical Card, you’ll receive your own when you turn 16.

- If your guardians don’t have a Medical Card, you can still apply if you live with them and earn more than €164 a week or if you live on your own and earn more than €184 a week.
Over 70s⁷You will qualify if your gross income is:
- not more than €550 a week if you are single
- not more than €1,050 a week for a couple (only one out of two people need to be aged 70 or older to be eligible).

How can I apply for a Medical Card?

To apply for a Medical Card, you need to send a Medical Card application form to the Client Registration Unit (CRU) along with any requested documents. 

There are three ways to do this:

  1. You can apply online on mymedicalcard.ie. This is the fastest method.
  2. You can download a Medical Card application form:
    1. MC1 Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form (pdf)
    2. If you are over 70: MC1(a) Medical Card and GP Visit Card Application Form - People Aged 70 Years or Older (pdf)
  3. You can get the application form and a list of participating GPs from your local health centre or Local Health Office for your area.¹

Take a look at our advice pages for specific information about how to claim a free eye test and glasses or hearing aids with a Medical Card.


Is there an income limit when applying for a Medical Card?

Yes. In order to qualify for a Medical Card, your weekly net earnings must be below a financial threshold calculated based on your individual circumstances.

Can I qualify for a Medical Card if I work full time?

Yes. Anyone who is ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland (meaning you are living here and intend to live here for at least one year) and passes the financial means test will qualify for a Medical Card.

What is the difference between a GP card and a Medical Card?

A GP card entitles over-70s, under-6s and carers to free GP visits. GP card holders aren’t covered for optical services under the Medical Card Scheme, so cannot avail of free eye tests and glasses. 

A Medical Card also allows qualified holders free access to a doctor, however, it also provides access to a number of other free or discounted services such as free prescription medicines, eye and ear tests, and hospital care.³

If you have a Medical Card, you don’t need a GP visit card.⁴

How long does it take to receive a Medical Card?

The Health Service Executive aims to process applications within 15 working days.⁵

Are pensioners entitled to a Medical Card?

Yes. Pensioners are entitled to a Medical Card as long as they are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland and their weekly net earnings fall below their individually calculated financial threshold.

For those aged 70 and older you qualify for a Medical Card if your gross income is not more than €550 a week if you are single or not more than €1,050 a week for a couple.⁶

What is PRSI?
PRSI and medical cards
Free eye test with PRSI or medical card
  1. Citizens Information. (02/09/2021). Medical cards. [Online] Available at: https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/health/medical_cards_and_gp_visit_cards/medical_card.html [Accessed 08/10/2021]
  2. Health Service Executive. (21/10/2018). Medical card application process, 1. What a medical card covers. [Online] Available at: https://www2.hse.ie/services/medical-cards/medical-card-application-process/what-a-medical-card-covers.html [Accessed 08/10/2021]
  3. Health Service Executive. Schemes and allowances. [Online] Available at: https://www2.hse.ie/costs-schemes-allowances/ [Accessed 08/10/2021]
  4. Health Service Executive. (21/10/2018). GP visit cards. [Online] Available at: https://www2.hse.ie/services/gp-visit-cards/gp-visit-cards.html [Accessed 08/10/2021]
  5. Health Service Executive. (21/10/2018). Medical card application process, 4. Apply. [Online] Available at: https://www2.hse.ie/services/medical-cards/medical-card-application-process/how-to-apply-for-a-medical-card.html [Accessed 08/10/2021]
  6. Health Service Executive. (21/10/2018). Medical card for over 70s. [Online] Available at: https://www2.hse.ie/services/medical-cards/medical-card-for-over-70s.html [Accessed 08/10/2021]