Travelling from Ireland for healthcare in Europe
If you are resident in Ireland you can choose to access healthcare in other countries in the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (the EEA also includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland.
The same rules continue to apply to the UK during the withdrawal transition period. The transition period started after the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and will last until 31 December 2020, unless an extension is requested.
In general, the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive only covers treatments that are available in Ireland while the Treatment Abroad Scheme covers treatments that are not available in Ireland.
If a treatment is covered by the Treatment Abroad Scheme, you cannot get a refund for it under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive, so it is important to apply under the appropriate scheme. The differences are summarised below, with links to more detailed information.
The European Health Insurance Card does not entitle you to travel abroad with the aim of getting public healthcare. It covers unplanned healthcare for Irish residents who become sick or injured while travelling in another country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
Cross-Border Healthcare Directive
If you are entitled to health services that are publicly funded and available in Ireland, you may opt to access those services in another member state of the EU or EEA under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.
- The treatment abroad can be in public or private healthcare.
- Some types of treatment need to be authorised in advance.
- You pay for the healthcare and then apply for a refund.
- You need the same kind of referral for healthcare abroad as you would for healthcare in Ireland. For example, from a GP (family doctor) or hospital consultant.
- Travel costs and living expenses abroad are not covered.
Treatment Abroad Scheme
If you are a public healthcare patient and require treatment that is not available in Ireland or is not available within the usual time needed to get it, taking account of your medical circumstances, you may be able to use the Treatment Abroad Scheme to get the treatment in another country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
- The treatment abroad must be in public healthcare.
- Treatment must be pre-authorised.
- You do not have to pay the healthcare provider abroad for pre-authorised treatment.
- You must be referred for treatment abroad by an Irish-based consultant who is treating you as a public patient. You cannot refer yourself or be referred by a GP.
- The Treatment Abroad Scheme may provide assistance with travel costs for the patient and a travelling companion where appropriate.