As in any country, the largest and most sophisticated health care facilities in Ireland and Northern Ireland are in the larger centres, a consideration to be kept in mind when choosing where to live. There are many excellent health care facilities on the island and not only have many Irish doctors and dentists gained experience in leading centres in North America but also many Canadian doctors have obtained their medical education in Irish medical schools, some 700+ Canadian being enrolled in them each year in recent years.
Although some are calling for it to be changed to a more universal access structure, Ireland currently has a two-tier health care system: a private practitioner and private hospital system that provides quickly accessible service and a public system that is characterized by Canadian style waiting lists. Doctors are organized into two broad categories: GPs and Consultants (specialists) whose fees are considerably higher than GP fees. Doctors' offices are called "surgeries".
Ireland requires that those moving to it demonstrate their ability to provide for themselves and not be a burden on the State. That requires providing evidence of private health insurance or sufficient financial means for payment in its absence. Private health insurance pays for many things, including pretty much everything that happens in a hospital. It does NOT, however, pay for the full cost of doctor visits and tests done at the doctor's office; it is expected that the costs of those visits and tests will be paid for at the time of the visit. Note also that health insurance plans do not cover dental care and that there can be significant waiting periods before private coverage takes effect for pre-existing conditions. Worse than that, if competition within Ireland has not solved it by the time you read this, the Irish plans' requirement that you pay premiums for two years without being covered for those two years is a nonsense that tells Canadians wanting to move to Ireland that they should seek out a plan that provides worldwide coverage and does not have such a waiting period in advance of their move. A worldwide coverage plan is also important if the move to Ireland might be followed by a move elsewhere, say, to the Bahamas, since a pre-existing condition arising whilst living in Ireland could result in a coverage waiting period under a new private plan in the new country of residence.
The State provides, subject to change in the annual national budget, pills and other treatment items free of charge for residents with specified long-term illnesses. Similarly subject to change, there is a monthly ceiling on the amount a family has to pay for prescription drugs. An equalization scheme provides that health insurance premiums do not discriminate as to age: a provider with a greater proportion of older subscribers – and therefore higher expenses – is compensated by its competitors so as to not be disadvantaged because they have a smaller proportion of older subscribers. Whichever provider is chosen, the highest level of coverage should be considered since, once enrolled, it is possible to 'size down' one's coverage but it may be difficult to raise it. Health care costs not covered by insurers can be taken into account in calculating income tax liability.