Thirty seven per cent of the population, or 1.7 million people, are now covered by a medical card.
The numbers covered has increased by almost 45% over the decade and by nearly 5%between 2010 and 2011.
In contrast, the numbers covered by private health insurance is declining.
The number of those paying for private care is down to over 2.1 million in 2011.
The figures are contained in the latest Health in Ireland, Key Trends 2012 report.
Other statistics contained in the report show the number of children in care increased by 5% between 2001 and 2010.
The percentage of these children in foster care also increased to 90% over the same period.
Death rates from suicide are down 4% on 2002 but up 6% between 2010 and 2011.
Cancer survival rates are over 2% above the EU average.