Ambulance cover is handled a little differently across Australia, with each state and territory working to their own ambulance regulations3. However, something that’s consistent regardless of where you live is that ambulance treatment and transport can be costly.
The last thing you want to be worrying about during a medical emergency is the cost of treatment and transport. Many people don’t realise that even if you’re able to be treated on the scene, and don’t require ambulance transport to a hospital or other medical facility, you’re still liable to pay a callout fee4. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the person being treated – rather than the person who called for an ambulance – is responsible for the bill.
In WA, the charging model for the ambulance service depends on whether you’re treated in Perth or a country location. St John Ambulance operates a “user pays” system in Perth, so unless your private health insurance policy covers ambulance, you’re liable for the bill4.
While many health insurance funds provide ambulance as part of their policies, there are often restrictions or limits3. For this reason, it’s worth confirming what you’re covered for; you can also compare policies with iSelect.
Those living in regional WA can arrange for country ambulance cover directly with St John Ambulance, that is, if ambulance cover is not part of their health fund offering.
St John Ambulance - a not-for-profit organisation - has provided WA’s ambulance service for more than 125 years5. Their service covers the largest area of any ambulance service in the world – more than 2.5 million square kilometres6 or 33% of the total landmass of Australia. In 2016-17, St John Ambulance delivered ambulance and patient transport to more than 310,000 patients across Western Australia5.
The Perth metropolitan area is supported by 30 ambulance depots, staffed day and night by more than 720 paramedics and patient transport officers7. Country WA’s population is serviced by more than 3,000 volunteer ambulance officers and 90 paramedics who travel more than two million kilometres each year.
One in five Western Australian ambulance users needs transport outside the metropolitan region7.
The WA ambulance service operates differently in metro and country areas. If you live in Perth, St John Ambulance operates a “user pays” system which means calling for an ambulance comes at a cost to the patient.
Fees vary depending on the nature of the callout, ranging from $473 for a patient transfer vehicle to $967 for urgent or life-threatening incidents7. For Perth residents, the only way to avoid being liable for these fees is to ensure you have ambulance coverage via your private health fund.
If you live in country WA, the cost of your ambulance trip is covered if you have comprehensive country ambulance cover, which includes unlimited emergency and non-emergency transport. Membership costs depend on where you live, but start from $55 annually for singles and $91 for families6.
Many health funds offer ambulance cover as part of their policies, however it can still be tricky to know exactly what you’re covered for. Some funds provide cover for all ambulance travel, while others have restrictions – they may cover you only in the state you live in, or they may not pay for treatment by an ambulance paramedic which doesn’t result in transport to a hospital.
If you’re not sure whether your private health insurance includes ambulance cover, you should contact them directly to check. You can also compare policies with iSelect.
Yes. WA Full Aged Pensioners are entitled to free ambulance transport where it’s deemed medically necessary, except if they’re being transferred between hospitals where one or both facilities is a private hospital8. WA residents who’re aged 65 and over, but do not receive a Centrelink pension, receive a 50% discount on any ambulance charges.
Pensioners who’re under 65 and receive a Disability, Single Parent or Carers pension may also be entitled to a 50% discount on ambulance services8. Health Care Card holders are not entitled to any discounts or concessions.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card holders are covered for ambulance services in every state of Australia by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs3.
Many people are understandably confused about the structure and charging model of Western Australia’s ambulance service. If you live in Perth where it’s a “user pays” approach7, it’s essential that you understand whether ambulance cover is part of your private health insurance policy. Contact your health fund directly to confirm you’re covered or call iSelect on 13 19 20 to compare policies.
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