Ambulance cover in Australia
Ambulance cover isn’t free in most states, but it is included in extras cover, which starts from less than $13 a month.
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There were 4.8 million ambulance call-outs in Australia between 2018 and 2019. Despite the high demand, you aren't covered for ambulance services in Australia, unless you live in Queensland or Tasmania.
To avoid fees of over $1,800 for a single call-out, you need to consider ambulance cover. Luckily, it's affordable, with cover starting from as little as $3 a month when you buy a basic extras policy.
What is ambulance cover?
Ambulance cover is a type of insurance that reimburses you for using an ambulance to receive emergency medical treatment. Unless you live in Queensland or Tasmania, it's not generally covered by Medicare, meaning an emergency ambulance trip can end up costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars if you don't have private health insurance.
Luckily, you can get standalone ambulance cover, which starts at around $40 per year. You'll also find that it's included with most extras policies for as little as $3 a week. As well as providing emergency ambulance cover, you can get benefits towards out of hospital treatments like dental, physiotherapy, optical and more.
Ambulance cover: Compare and get a quote
Want ambulance cover with your extras? Compare the policies and their benefit limits below – they all include emergency ambulance cover – plus a few other treatments like dental and physiotherapy.
Ambulance only cover options
The following health funds offer ambulance cover, prices are based on a single in Sydney (checked in April 2021):
|Fund||Cover Name||Annual Price|
|Medibank Ambulance Cover||$64.20|
|Ambulance Only Cover||$57.23|
|Emergency Only Ambulance cover||$43.88|
|Emergency Ambulance Only||$62.95|
|Ambulance Only Cover||$59.17|
*Quotes are based on an individual with less than $90,000 income.
Does Medicare cover ambulance services?
No. Many Australians wrongly believe their ambulance costs will be covered by Medicare and this is incorrect. Unless you are a resident of Queensland or Tasmania, you could be facing big call-out costs. Read on to find out more about the costs in your state and how you can get ambulance cover.
Nearly one in three Australians wrongly believe ambulances are free under Medicare 30% – the equivalent of 5.7 million people– think that ambulance costs are wholly subsidised by the government. One in ten (8%) have caught public transport because they didn't want to pay for an ambulance.
Ambulance cover NSW
Residents of New South Wales are charged 51% of the total emergency ambulance service charge, with the government covering the rest. From July 2020, New South Wales residents will have to pay an emergency ambulance call-out fee of $401 plus an additional $3.62 for every kilometre travelled.
Thanks to the Ambulance NSW levy scheme, if you have hospital cover, you're automatically covered for emergency transportation within New South Wales. If you don't have hospital cover, you may need to purchase ambulance cover (either as a standalone policy or as part of an extras policy) from a private health fund. Pensioner and concession cardholders can access most ambulance services for free, as can students covered by a school or group contribution. Those eligible for free ambulance services include people who hold a:
- Health Care Card
- Pensioner Concession Card
- Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card (find out more at the Dept of Human Services)
- Department of Veterans Affairs Repatriation Health Card, also known as a Gold Card (excluding non-emergency ambulance services)
- Department of Veterans Affairs Repatriation Health Card, also known as a White Card (only for services relating to a specific condition that is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs)
Cost of an ambulance in New South Wales
|Service||Call Out Fee||Cost per km||Max charge|
|Road ambulance emergency||$401||$3.62||$6,571|
|Road ambulance non-emergency||$316||$1.95||$6,571|
|Fixed wing emergency||$401||$3.62||$6,571|
|For helicopter emergency||$401||$3.62||$6,571|
NSW Government: NSW Ambulance – Accounts & Fees. January 2021.
Ambulance cover VIC
Victorians can purchase ambulance cover through membership with Ambulance Victoria which provides a 1-year membership for $48.35. 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.
Cost of an ambulance in Victoria
|Service||Call out fee|
|Emergency Road - Metropolitan||$1,265|
|Emergency Road - Regional and Rural||$1,866|
|Non Emergency Stretcher - Metropolitan||$341|
|Non Emergency Stretcher - Regional and Rural||$577|
|Treatment without transport||$546|
Ambulance Victoria fee schedule 2020-21. January 2021.
Ambulance cover QLD
If you live in the Sunshine State, the Queensland Government covers the cost of emergency ambulance services not only in Queensland but also right around the country. In order to be covered under the Community Ambulance Cover scheme, you'll need to be able to demonstrate that your principal place of residence is in Queensland.
Cost of an ambulance in Queensland
|The cost of ambulance services for Queensland residents is covered by the state government.|
Ambulance cover SA
South Australian residents can purchase a subscription with the South Australian Ambulance Service. Prices start at $88.50 for one person. You can also get Australia-wide (interstate) ambulance cover for $104.60. Otherwise, you could be looking at $1,044 for an emergency call-out fee. There are pension rates available for holders of an SA Pension concession card. The rate starts at $53.50 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.
Cost of an ambulance in SA
|Emergency call out||$1,044|
|Non-Emergency call out||$233|
|Treat no Transport (flat rate)||$233|
|Plus kilometre charges||$6.00|
SAAS Transport Fees 1 July 2020 – 30 June 2021. January 2021.
Ambulance cover WA
Western Australian residents who want cover for ambulance services need to purchase health insurance that includes ambulance cover. 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 $57 for a single person if you live south of the 26th parallel and $75 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.
Cost of an ambulance in Western Australia
|Patient Transfer Vehicle||$489|
St John Ambulance WA transport charges. January 2021.
Ambulance cover ACT
The ACT Ambulance Service doesn't offer ambulance-only cover so you'll need private health insurance or ambulance-only cover if you want to avoid the fees outlined below. 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.
Cost of an ambulance in the ACT
|Service||Call out fee||Cost per km outside the ACT|
|Emergency ambulance service (treatment and transport)||$982||$13|
|Emergency ambulance service (treatment but no transport)||$681||N/A|
|Non-emergency ambulance service by an Ambulance Paramedic or an Intensive Care Paramedic||$702||$13|
|Non-emergency ambulance service (treatment and transport) by Patient Transport Service resource||$253||$5.30|
ACT government ambulance service fees. January 2021.
Family ambulance cover
There are a few ways you can get family ambulance cover. Here's a brief breakdown of each state.
|States||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 quarterly membership for the family is $24.18 and $96.70 for 1 year with Ambulance Victoria. Cover is also available with extras cover for families.|
|Family ambulance QLD||Free to all residents.|
|Family ambulance SA||It's $176, and $208 to include interstate travel for SA Ambulance Cover. You can also get non-emergency cover for $47 a year. 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 $95 and $125 north of the 26th parallel. 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 January 2021
What's the cheapest way to get ambulance cover?
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.
What to look for to find the best ambulance cover
When shopping around for ambulance cover, look for a policy that includes the following:
- Emergency and non-emergency ambulance services. Some policies will only cover you for emergency ambulance transport.
- Emergency road, air and sea transport. It's worth getting cover that pays for all kinds of transport to avoid expensive air or sea transportation fees.
- On-the-spot ambulance treatment across Australia at any time. Make sure your policy also includes cover for on-the-spot treatment in case you need medical attention there and then.
- No call-out fees. Most types of ambulance cover should not charge you for call-out fees.
- Ambulance transport between hospitals when it's medically necessary. If you need to be moved to receive treatment, some policies will cover you for the costs.
- Cover to any hospital as opposed to the nearest. Certain policies come with limitations on ambulance services. For example, some will only cover you for ambulance transport to the nearest hospital.
- No waiting periods. Most ambulance service cover shouldn't come with a waiting period for emergency ambulance transport.
How do waiting periods work for ambulance cover?
You most likely won't have to serve a waiting period to be covered for emergency ambulance services and on-the-spot treatment with either hospital, extras or a standalone ambulance-only cover or subscription. This is because waiting periods generally only apply to treatments that you can anticipate needing, but you're only eligible for emergency transport to hospital because of sudden or unexpected events, hence you don't usually have a waiting period of more than one day.
However, you will likely have to serve around a 1- or 2-month waiting period for non-emergency ambulance services. This is simply to prevent you from getting cover only when you need it.
The table below outlines typical waiting periods for emergency and non-emergency ambulance transportation.
|Emergency ambulance transportation and on-the-spot treatment||No waiting period or a maximum of 1 day|
|Non-emergency ambulance transport||1-2 months|
St John Ambulance cover Australia wide
St John Ambulance services operate in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. If you sign up to a membership with St John Ambulance services in the Northern Territory, subscribers are covered Australia-wide and entitled to free emergency transport in any state or territory in Australia. For Western Australians, interstate coverage is restricted to services in other states that have a reciprocal arrangement with St John Ambulance Western Australia.
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