Nearly half of the population is in receipt of a medical card.
According to Health Service Executive (HSE) figures in the Irish Examiner today, GP-only and full medical cards now number around 2 million and they will cost tax payers €2.5 billion this year.
There has been a rise of 38% in the number of people in receipt of the cards in the last 4 years.
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Under the current rules, a person qualifies for a medical card if they earn less than €184 per week - or less than €266 in the case of a married couple.
These limits can be increased with an allowance of up to €39 per week for each child.
The weekly cost of travelling to work can also be added on - as can expenses for rent or mortgage payments and childcare costs.
Medical card holders are also allowed to have up to €36,000 in savings without affecting their claim.
Changes in eligibility
The Irish Examiner says that up to 40,000 people are expected to lose their cards due to changes to income eligibility.
It adds that up to half of this group are people aged over-70, earning more than €600 per week who will be given a GP-visit card instead of a full card.
Fine Gael Senator and Spokesperson for Health in the Seanad is Colm Burke.
He says the government is tackling the issue so that only those who need medical and GP cards get them.