Ireland is a small island that marks the western boundary of the European Union. The Celtic nation had a failing economy during the early 2000s and was one of the poorest in Europe. In 2018, the Irish economy clocked a growth rate of over 8%, a spectacular recovery. Ireland promises to emerge as a major low-cost hub for the software, financial service, and pharmaceutical industries.
It is likely to become a hotspot for expats from all over the world due to relaxed visa rules to attract businesses suffering due to Brexit. However, before you buy a one-way ticket to Ireland, you need to know about the Irish healthcare system and the urgent need for expat medical insurance.
Irish Public Healthcare System – A Brief Overview
Ireland’s public healthcare system falls under the Health Service Executive (HSE), which provides medical services to residents of EU nations and Switzerland in addition to Ireland.
There is no need to pay an extra tax to use this free medical care, but Irish immigration must first certify you as ordinarily resident. You receive this status after being a resident of Ireland for three consecutive financial years. Otherwise, you have to show that you intend to remain in Ireland for at least one year, as proven by:
- Purchase of property or signing a long-term lease
- Significant investments in business and/or application for a “golden visa”
- Work permit or confirmed job offer by an Irish employer
If you are an ordinary resident, you receive free healthcare with few minor exceptions.
HSE services are available to Irish Medical Card holders. The benefits of the Irish Medical Card include:
- Free visits to a general practitioner
- Free prescription drugs (with some exceptions where the medication is subsidized and not free)
- Free hospital services and treatment, including surgery (both as inpatient and outpatient)
- Complete dental, ophthalmic, and aural care
- Maternity checkups
- Short-term psychiatric treatment
Ambulance charges are free for those who hold the medical card. Women can also take advantage of a variety of free check-ups like cervical screenings and mammograms that lead to early detection of malignancies.
Those who do not possess the Irish Medical Card—such as new arrivals not yet eligible to be ordinary residents—receive the same services with varying degrees of subsidy.
HSE Is Broken – Quite Badly
Among the most well-known nations of Europe, Ireland has the most citizens who hold private insurance. Whereas in countries such as Norway, private medical insurance is quite unknown, the Irish regularly travel to the UK to receive treatment using theirs. In 2005, 47.6% of the Irish population had private medical insurance, a number that has slightly reduced to 40% by 2017.
Though Irish public healthcare is free, many believe that it is not up to the standard of EU nations. A 2017 study by the European Health Consumer Index found that it has the longest wait times among 35 EU member states. As of 2020, the HSE aims to reduce wait times for appointments with specialists to 18 months! The 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian expat in Ireland who passed due to lack of treatment, was so tragic that it led to a national referendum.
Private Healthcare Insurance in Ireland – A Must Have
Of course, as an expat, you can't wait 18 months to have an earache looked at. A small cavity easily treated by resin filler would need a root canal by the end of that timeframe. Thankfully, there are plenty of private hospitals in Ireland that offer world-class services and swift treatment.
The average yearly cost for a basic insurance plan is about €1,850, or about $2,100 USD. It is not very cheap but essential to have due to the uncertain nature of government-owned hospitals.
Irish Expat Medical Insurance – Critical Points to Look For
As a buyer of expat health insurance for Ireland, you need to be watchful. Insurance companies provide financial de-risking, but they are well known for including lots of fine print. Here are some points to consider to ensure you buy the best expat health insurance for Ireland.
- Portability – You would probably be moving from country to country and not staying in Ireland permanently. Your insurance should move with you. This flexibility allows you the option to skip travel insurance for work and vacation. It is the most convenient feature, and you should try at least for a policy that applies across all of the EU and Britain (we are living in a post-Brexit era, after all).
- Critical Care Coverage – It costs less to treat pneumonia than cancer. Critical illnesses have a high rate of fatality, and they require complex therapy and extended stays in ICU. Cheaper policies may limit coverage of more serious conditions like strokes, malignancies, and various types of heart surgery (barring primary angioplasty). You have to consider the risk correlated to your age. If you are middle-aged (above 40), you must possess critical illness coverage.
- Extensive Network – There are about 20 private hospitals in Ireland. How many of them are covered by the policy? If it is only one or two, you might not be eligible to receive specialized care in the particular domain that you are looking for. Look for coverage that extends to at least five hospitals across Ireland.
- Country of Origin Coverage – The policy must seamlessly apply to your home country. This allows you to not spend extra on a separate domestic policy. Ideally, you should be covered in your home country and a substantial part of the rest of the world, which would allow you to explore better job opportunities globally.
Remain Safe Always with Expat Health Insurance
The best health insurance for expatriates is available here. You get to compare a large number of policies with a mouse click and buy the one that best suits your individual needs. Buy an expat insurance policy with all the essential riders to help secure your future.