There is no one age at which a child ceases to be a child for the purposes of health services but 16 is the most common cut-off point. In the Healthy Ireland Survey 2019 (Healthy Ireland, 2019), 93% of 15- to 24-year-olds rated their health as good or very good.
Ireland has a comprehensive, government funded public healthcare system. A person living in Ireland for at least one year is considered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to be 'ordinarily resident' and is entitled to either full or limited eligibility for health services. People who have not been resident in Ireland for at least one year must satisfy the HSE that it is their intention to remain for a minimum of one year to be eligible for health services. Dependants of such individuals must also contact the HSE to confirm their eligibility.
Over 30% of people in Ireland have Medical Cards. Medical Card holders have full eligibility for health services, allowing people to get a wide range of health services and medicines free of charge. Medical cards are typically distributed on a means-tested bases. Some people are eligible without a medical test:
- people with EU (European Union) entitlement
- asylum seekers living in direct provision
- people affected by the drug Thalidomide
- women who lived in certain institutions
- women who have had a symphysiotomy.
Others who do not qualify under the means test, may be able to qualify for a discretionary medical card. 16- to 25-year-olds who are dependent on a parent/guardian, are eligible for a medical card if their parent/guardian has a non-discretionary medical card. Children in foster care, children who receive the Domiciliary Care Allowance (a payment for children with disabilities) and children who are under 18 years old and were diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years, are also eligible.
People without medical cards have limited eligibility for health services. They can access a wide range of community and hospital health services, either free of charge or at reduced charges for hospital care and emergency services.