You can’t predict when accidents or emergencies are going to happen, and the last thing you want to be thinking about in a medical emergency is the cost of treatment by a paramedic or ambulance transport to hospital. For this reason, it’s important to understand whether you’re covered for emergency transport, or other ambulance services for your state.
Many Australians believe that Medicare covers the cost of emergency treatment and transport2, however this is not the case. Each Australian state and territory has its own ambulance regulations3, which means that the cost of emergency ambulance transport – and whether you need ambulance cover – will depend on where you live.
In Queensland and Tasmania, the state government covers the cost of ambulance services3, so residents don’t need to organise their own ambulance cover. However, the cost of emergency transport for those of us living in South Australia isn’t automatically covered3 – if you want ambulance cover, you must buy a membership from the SA Ambulance Service or ensure that it’s included as part of your private health insurance policy.
The SA Ambulance Service provides emergency medical assistance, treatment and transport – including non-urgent transport – to all South Australians4. The service receives more than 400,000 calls each year, including around 400 triple zero (000) calls every day5.
Ambulance cover in South Australia operates based on a tiered scheme6. Standard ambulance cover protects you for any emergencies within South Australia, or you can opt to add interstate coverage for an additional $15 per year for singles, or $30 per year for families6.
Ambulance cover with the SA Ambulance Service starts from $83 per year for singles, $165 for families and $50 for single pensioner6. These costs cover all emergency treatment and transport within South Australia. You can opt to receive coverage throughout Australia for an additional $15 for singles or $30 for families6.
If you don’t have ambulance membership, the cost of transport following an emergency callout is $9766, while a non-emergency callout costs $2187. A per-kilometre charge of $5.60 also applies. Membership with the SA Ambulance Service gives you peace of mind that you won’t be liable for these costs if you or your family members are involved in an emergency.
Standard ambulance cover with the SA Ambulance Service includes all ambulance attendance within South Australia for permanent SA residents6. Members are covered from the day after the date of joining for emergency transport, and two months after the date of joining for non-emergency transport.
Interstate coverage gives SA Ambulance Service members the same level of coverage interstate, from an additional $15 per year.
Every health fund treats ambulance cover a little differently, which means that even if you have private health insurance, your policy might not cover ambulance6. Some policies will only cover you and your family for emergency ambulance services, which doesn’t include patient transport that’s classified as “non-emergency”, such as clinically required transfers between medical facilities or trips to undergo medical testing.
If you’re unsure about whether your private health insurance policy includes ambulance cover, we recommend that you contact your health fund directly to check if you’re covered, and your level of cover.
If your private health insurance policy only covers you for emergency treatment and transport, you’ll still be liable to pay for any non-emergency ambulance transport8. (Around a third of all ambulance transport provided by the SA Ambulance Service is classified as non-emergency, and the cost of non-emergency transport starts from $213 per trip8).
If you’re covered for emergency transport but also want coverage for clinically necessary non-emergency transport, the SA Ambulance Service offers Ambulance Covers Extras. This could ensure you’re completely covered, whether or not your medical situation is classified as an emergency or not8.
Ambulance Cover Extras is charged at $21.70 per year for singles and $43.75 for families8. To add interstate non-emergency cover to your Ambulance Cover Extras membership is an additional $30.
Yes, pensioners living in South Australia must organise for ambulance cover through their private health fund or directly with the SA Ambulance Service. Pensioners receive discounted membership with the SA Ambulance Service, from $50 for singles and $99.50 for pensioner families6.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card holders are covered for ambulance services in every state of Australia by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs3.
Understanding how ambulance cover is treated in your state can be tricky. If you’d like to learn more about purchasing ambulance cover as part of your private health insurance, feel free to call us on 13 19 20.
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