Community Medical Schemes


A medical card entitles holders to a range of health services. These include:

  • Family doctor service, including a choice of family doctor
  • Prescribed medicines
  • Prescribed medical appliances where available
  • Out-patient services at hospital
  • In-patient services in a public ward in a public hospital
  • Consultant services
  • Mother and baby services
  • Dental, eyes and ears services
  • Public health nursing services

If you have a medical card, you can get prescription medicines free of charge.

If you are under the age of 70 years, there is a prescription charge of €1.50 for each item. This is up to a maximum of €15 per month, for each person or family.

If you are over 70 years of age, there is a prescription charge of €1.50 for each item. This is up to a maximum of €10 per month, for each person or family.

Refunds are given every 6 months to those who have paid over the monthly limit.

Getting a medical card involves completing an application form which can be collected from your local community care centre or you can apply online at

Or you can download a medical card and GP visit card application form:

You can also get the application form and a list of participating GPs from your local health centre or Local Health Office for your area.

You return the form to the Client Registration Unit (address below), along with any documents required. If you are applying online, you can upload photos, scans or photocopies of the original documents specified on the form.

You can track the progress of your medical card application on the HSE website.

GP Visit Card

GP visit card holders are entitled to the services of a General Practitioner free of charge. The application process is the same as that for medical cards and you can apply at

To get a GP visit card your net weekly income, after your expenses, must be below a qualifying financial threshold.

This qualifying financial threshold is unique to you.

It is calculated by adding the following 3 amounts:

  • A basic rate – an amount of money depending on your circumstances.
  • An amount for each dependant.
  • Your allowable expenses.

The total is known as your weekly qualifying financial threshold.

You will qualify for a GP visit card if your net weekly income is less than this amount. Net income is your weekly income after tax, PRSI and USC.

Discretionary Hardship Scheme

If you have a medical card and are prescribed an item that is not on the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) list, your pharmacist or Local Health Office can apply for it to be paid for by the Discretionary Hardship Scheme.

If the hardship scheme does not cover the cost of the medicine and you have to pay for it, you may want to check with your doctor to see if there is an alternative medicine. You can get more information about the scheme from your pharmacist or Local Health Office.

Long Term Illness Scheme

This scheme entitles individuals to obtain medicines and appliances free of charge irrespective of means. It applies only to persons suffering from any of the following diseases or disabilities:

  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental illness (for people under 16 only)
  • Diabetes insipidus
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Haemophilia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Epilepsy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Spina bifida
  • Muscular dystrophies
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Parkinsonism
  • Acute leukaemia
  • Conditions arising from use of Thalidomide

The Long Term Illness Scheme causes much confusion as it does not cover all long-term illnesses.   The above list of diseases and disabilities covered by the scheme was decided in Regulations made by the Minister for Health under the Health Act 1970 (The Health Services (Amendment) Regulations, 1971, S.I. 277/1971).  Successive governments have resisted attempts by patient organisations to extend this list to people suffering from other long-term conditions, leading to an unjust situation in which life-long conditions like psoriasis are not considered ‘long-term illnesses’ under the Scheme.

High-Tech Scheme

This scheme relates to the supply of advanced treatments like biologics (injectable drugs).   A high-tech prescription is usually issued by the consultant in a hospital and given to the patient to bring to their pharmacy for dispensing.

Where the patient has a medical card or the medicine is for a specific condition covered by the Long Term Illness Scheme they do not pay anything, otherwise they pay the first €80.00 a month of the cost in accordance with the rules of the Drugs Payment Scheme.

Drug Payment Scheme

All Irish residents who do not have a medical card should apply for a drug payment (DPS) card. Under this scheme a family pays no more than €80 per month for prescribed medicines and appliances listed under the scheme. It covers:

  • The applicant
  • His/her spouse
  • Dependants under 18
  • Dependants between 18-23 who are in full time education
  • A dependant with a physical or mental disability or illness who cannot maintain themselves fully, who is ordinarily resident in the family home and who does not hold a current medical card.

Patients using the Long Term Illness Scheme but whose medication is not covered under that scheme should also apply for the Drugs payment Scheme. Application forms can be collected from any pharmacy or local community care centre.

Drug Refund Scheme

If a patient/family spends over €80 in a month they can claim back the excess by completing one of forms available from your local community care centre.

Treatment Abroad Scheme

The HSE operates a Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS) for people entitled to treatment in another EU/EEA member state. The TAS provides the cost of approved treatments in another EU/EEA member state or Switzerland. 

Cross Border Healthcare Directive

The HSE operates a Cross-Border Healthcare Directive (CBD), for people entitled to public patient healthcare in Ireland who want to avail of that healthcare in another EU/EEA* member state under Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011 on the application of patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare, as per the procedures set out in governing EU Regulations and Directives and Irish legislation.  The scheme does not cover access to drug therapies that are not currently provided for in the public healthcare system in Ireland, but will cover costs up to the cost of procedure in the Irish healthcare service. 

Tax Relief on Medicines recommends that you keep all your receipts for medical expenses, including those for any visits to your doctor as you can claim a tax refund at the end of the year on these expenses. You must wait for your P60 statement to arrive before claiming. You must also wait for the P60 statement from your spouse or civil partner if you are jointly assessed for tax. You can only claim for expenses that you have receipts for. You can claim relief on the last four year’s health expenses. The refund will be paid at the lowest rate of tax, which is currently 20%.

How to claim your tax relief
You can claim tax relief online using Revenue’s myAccount service. You can also access the myAccount service on mobile and tablet devices using Revenue’s RevApp.  You can also claim medical expenses relief offline by completing a paper Form 12 and returning it to your Revenue office. You can request a Form 12 by calling Revenue at (1890) 30 67 06 and giving your name, your full postal address, your Personal Public Service (PPS) number and the number of forms you need. Alternatively, you can email these details to

Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme

The Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme consists of a basic payment, called Supplementary Welfare Allowance, and other financial supplements for certain expenses you may not be able to meet, including emergency situations. It is administered by the Department of Social Protection’s representative (formerly known as the Community Welfare Officer) in your local office.  Visit Citizen’s Information for more details of this scheme.

Date of review: Feb 2024