Ireland ‘closer to universal healthcare’ as free GP visit cards scheme extended for a third time

Ireland ‘closer to universal healthcare’ as free GP visit cards scheme extended for a third time

PEOPLE in Ireland are being urged to apply for free GP visit cards as the scheme extends to a further 215,000 residents this week.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed that a third extension of the scheme this year is now live, which has made free GP care available to an estimated additional 500,000 people in Ireland.

It follows the roll-out of free GP Visit Cards to 78,000 children aged six and seven in August, and changes to the income threshold which made an additional 215,000 people eligible in September.

"I am delighted that the three expansions of the GP Visit Card scheme are now complete and that the income threshold for cards has increased by over one third,” Minister Donnelly said.

“This expansion is a significant step towards removing cost as barrier to healthcare and is particularly significant in the current cost of living crisis.”

Mr Donnelly is now urging the public to go online and check their eliginbility for a card, explaining “you may think you do not qualify but the application process factors in household expenses such as mortgage or rent and childcare, along with income”.

He added: “With the increases in income threshold, now close to half of households in Ireland could be eligible for free GP care.

"The HSE have put in place a simplified online application process which is easier and faster to complete. I encourage everyone to go online, find out more and apply at"

The expansion of the scheme is financially supported an agreement between the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive, and the Irish Medical Organisation.

“As we implement the final phase of this expansion, I’m proud to say that close to 850,000 individuals are now eligible for free GP care, including all children up to their eighth birthday and all those over 70,” Mr Donnelly added.

“This is in addition to Medical Card holders who also have access to free GP care.

"We’re moving closer to universal healthcare, and this progress is underpinned by constructive collaboration with stakeholders in order that services can meet demand."