Want good value cover?
HBF is this year's 2023 Finder health insurance winner. The not-for-profit has some of the best value policies on the market, really good customer service and some very cheap basic hospital options.
*Prices are based on a single person living in Sydney earning less than $90,000 a year.
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Ambulance services aren't covered by Medicare, and only Queensland and Tasmania offer state government coverage for ambulance costs. That means an emergency ambulance trip can end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars if you don't have private health insurance. Luckily, there are a few ways to get covered for these costs.
Ambulance cover is a type of private health insurance that reimburses you for using an ambulance to receive emergency medical treatment. Some ambulance cover just includes emergency transport to your nearest hospital, while other policies cover a range of ambulance services, including transfer between hospitals. You'll also find ambulance coverage included in most (but not all) extras policies, as well as with some hospital-only policies. Check the product disclosure statement (PDS) of your policy to make sure you're covered for what's important to you.
Ambulance services aren't covered by Medicare, and Queensland and Tasmania are the only 2 states that provide some coverage of ambulance costs for residents. Queensland residents will have their ambulance costs covered nation-wide, while Tasmanian residents will have their costs covered within Tasmania only. Note that you do have to be a resident of Tasmania or Queensland to be covered – non-residents aren't eligible. Some states (other than TAS and QLD) do offer free ambulance services for specific groups, like pensioners or DVA gold-card holders.
Some state ambulance services offer a separate subscription service. These subscriptions typically cover the cost of ambulance transport in your state, and will sometimes cover you nation-wide. For example, a Northern Territory St John subscription will cover you for St John ambulance services in the NT, and also for ambulance fees across the country.
No, Medicare does not cover ambulance services – the idea that it does is a common misconception among Australians. Unless you are a resident of Queensland or Tasmania or have private health insurance, you could be facing big ambulance call-out costs.
Nearly 1 in 3 Australians wrongly believe ambulances are free under Medicare, and 30% – the equivalent of 5.7 million people – think that ambulance costs are wholly subsidised by the government. Meanwhile, almost 1 in 10 (8%) have caught public transport because they didn't want to pay for an ambulance.
New South Wales residents have to pay an emergency ambulance call-out fee of $428 plus an additional $3.87 for every kilometre travelled. You are charged 51% of the total emergency ambulance service charge, with the government covering the rest. If the reason for needing an ambulance is related to COVID-19, you won't have to pay. Some concession card holders are also exempt from paying.
|Service||Call-out fee||Cost per km||Max charge|
|Road ambulance emergency||$428||$3.87||$7,023|
|Road ambulance non-emergency||$338||$2.09||$7,023|
|Fixed wing emergency||$428||$3.87||$7,023|
|For helicopter emergency||$428||$3.84||$7,023|
NSW Government: NSW Ambulance – Accounts & Fees, July 2023
The Queensland Government covers the cost of emergency ambulance services in Queensland and around the country. In order to be covered under the Community Ambulance Cover scheme, you'll need to be prove you live in Queensland.
Emergency ambulance services can cost $1,032 in the ACT if you are transported and treated. Residents who hold a Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card are entitled to free emergency ambulance services within the ACT. When travelling interstate, though, there is no cover available if you're travelling in Queensland, South Australia or Western Australia.
|Service||Call-out fee||Cost per km outside the ACT|
|Emergency ambulance service (treatment and transport)||$1,032||$14|
|Emergency ambulance service (treatment but no transport)||$715||N/A|
ACT government ambulance service fees, July 2023
You will have to pay $1,358 for an ambulance trip in the city and $2,004 if you're in a regional or rural area. Victorians can buy ambulance cover through membership with Ambulance Victoria which provides a 1-year membership for $49.94. If you hold a concession card, you can get clinically necessary ambulance cover for free. Otherwise, you have the option of taking out ambulance cover through your private health fund.
|Emergency road - metropolitan||$1,358|
|Emergency road - regional and rural||$2,004|
|Non-emergency stretcher - metropolitan||$367|
|Non-emergency stretcher - regional and rural||$620|
|Treatment without transport||$586|
Ambulance Victoria fee schedule 2022-23, July 2023
Residents of Tasmania are eligible for free ambulance services within the state, paid for by the state government. However, this doesn't cover you interstate. If you live in Tasmania but want coverage for ambulance services in another states, you'll need to take out a private health insurance policy that covers ambulance.
An emergency ambulance call-out in South Australia will cost $1,137. South Australian residents can purchase a subscription with the South Australian Ambulance Service. Prices start at $92 for 1 person. You can also get Australia-wide (interstate) ambulance cover for $108.70. There are pension rates available for holders of an SA Pension concession card. The rate starts at $55.50 for a single pensioner.
Alternatively, a health insurance policy that includes ambulance services may be better value for money as you can also get covered for other medical treatment, not just ambulance services.
|Treatment, no transport (flat rate)||$254|
|Plus kilometre charges||$6.50|
SAAS Fees and charges, July 2023
Western Australian residents can expect to pay $1,133 for emergency ambulance treatment unless they have health insurance. Western Australian residents who are over the age of 65 and are receiving an Australian government pension are entitled to free ambulance services. This includes emergency ambulance services and medically necessary non-urgent ambulance services. If you're over 65 but you don't receive a government pension, you are still entitled to 50% off the cost of ambulance services.
Country Ambulance Cover is available with St John Ambulance Cover WA. Prices start at $64 for a single person if you live south of the 26th parallel and $85 for those north of the 26th parallel. In Perth, St John Ambulance operates a "user pays" system, so you need private health insurance if you don't want to pay for ambulance services.
|Patient transfer vehicle||$609|
St John Ambulance WA transport charges, July 2023
The cost of emergency ambulance transportation is $815. St John operates ambulance services in the Northern Territory but you will need a subscription to St John or you'll need private ambulance insurance to cover costs. Subscriptions costs begin at $110 for an individual and $130 for a family.
There are a few ways you can get family ambulance cover. Here's a brief breakdown for each state.
|State||Ways to get ambulance cover|
|Family ambulance cover NSW||If you want cover for the family, you'll need to get family hospital or extras coverage. In NSW, emergency ambulance service is included with hospital policies.|
|Family ambulance cover VIC||A 1-year family membership with Ambulance Victoria is $99.88. Cover is also available with extras cover for families.|
|Family ambulance QLD||Free to all residents.|
|Family ambulance SA||It's $183 and $216.25 to include interstate travel for SA Ambulance Cover. Alternatively, you can buy ambulance cover through private health insurance.|
|Family ambulance WA||Ambulance cover is available with St John Ambulance south of the 26th parallel for $107 and north of the 26th parallel for $141. It's also available with private health insurance extras cover.|
|Family ambulance TAS||Free to all residents.|
|Family ambulance ACT||You will need private health insurance that covers your family.|
|Family ambulance NT||A St John Ambulance cover NT subscription is available for $130 per year. You can also get family cover with a private health fund.|
Prices checked July 2023
Standalone ambulance cover is generally the cheapest way to get covered. However, it's not necessarily the best value for money. For instance, a standalone ambulance cover policy is likely to cost you between $50 and $110 a year depending on the state you live in but this covers you for emergency ambulances only. You can get the same service with extras cover for as little as $3 a week, but you'll also get routine dental, physiotherapy and chiropractic cover included.
If standalone ambulance cover is all you're interested in, then you don't need to consider extras. But if you want value for money, then go for an extras policy that also includes emergency ambulance and a range of other important health services.
You won't have to serve a waiting period for emergency ambulance services.
Waiting periods generally only apply to treatments that you can anticipate needing – for example, a hip replacement – but you're only eligible for emergency transport to hospital because of sudden or unexpected events. In some cases, you'll have to serve a 1-day waiting period.
However, you may have to serve a 1- or 2-month waiting period for non-emergency ambulance services. This is to ensure you access cover only when you need it.
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