Ambulance fees can be expensive – and many Australians incorrectly believe that Medicare covers the cost of emergency treatment and transport1 – so it’s worth ensuring that you’re covered.
Across Australia in 2016-17, there were 3.5 million emergency incidents recorded2. These incidents resulted in 4.4. million ambulance service responses to attend to 3.3 million patients3. With our national population close to 25 million people4, this means that around 13% of Australians use our ambulance service each year.
The cost of the ambulance services varies by state, with Queensland and Tasmanian residents enjoying a free service. Across other states, there’s a lot of variability - in Victoria, the average cost of emergency transport is more than $1,1005; if you live in New South Wales, the NSW government subsidises the ambulance service so that you’ll only be billed for 51% of the actual cost of your ambulance transport6.
No, the cost of emergency transport or other ambulance services isn’t covered by Medicare1. However, each state in Australia has its own ambulance regulations, which means that whether you have to pay for ambulance services depends on where you live.
For some of us, ambulance costs are paid for by that state government, while others are responsible for organising their own ambulance cover either directly with that state’s ambulance service, or through a private health fund. Concession card holders are entitled to free ambulance transport services in most states, depending on their concession type1.
Every health insurance provider treats ambulance cover a little differently. Some funds provide unlimited cover, while others limit or exclude ambulance cover, or cap the amount that you’re entitled to. For this reason, you shouldn’t assume that just because you hold private health insurance, you’re covered for ambulance.
Permanent residents of the Sunshine State are automatically covered for emergency pre-hospital ambulance treatment and transport Australia-wide7. This means that any ambulance travel within Australia – whether you’re at home or interstate – is paid for by the Queensland government.
If you’re a permanent Queensland resident and receive an invoice for ambulance treatment or transport provided to you or a dependent by another state’s ambulance service, you should forward the invoice – along with proof of your residency - to the Queensland Ambulance Service7.
Ambulance transport in Queensland is provided by the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), which delivers ambulance services from 290 different response locations, within 15 local ambulance service networks8.
The QAS operates seven operations centres throughout the state that handle emergency calls and deploy, dispatch, and coordinate ambulances throughout Queensland.
Your eligibility for free ambulance treatment and transport will depend on where you live. The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman provides a helpful state-by-state guide, or you can call iSelect on 13 19 20 for advice on how ambulance cover is treated in your state.
Understanding whether you’re covered for ambulance transport and treatment can be a challenge. If you need help, call us on 13 19 20 for guidance.
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