Ambulance Cover is handled a little differently across Australia, with each state and territory working to their own ambulance arrangements3. 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 services, you’re liable for the bill5.
While many health insurance funds provide ambulance cover as part of their policies, there are often restrictions or limits6. For this reason, it’s worth comparing a range of policies and providers with iSelect* and confirming what you’re covered for.
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 130 years7.
Their service covers the largest area of any ambulance service in the world – more than 2.5 million square kilometres8 or 33% of the total landmass of Australia.
In 2022, St John provided 258,847 emergency ambulance services (priority 1-3) across WA9.
The WA ambulance service operates differently in metropolitan 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 $576 for a patient transfer vehicle to $1,072 for urgent or life-threatening incidents10. 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. Direct membership with St John Ambulance is not available in metro areas.
Membership costs for residents in regional or remote Western Australia range from $61-$80 for singles, and $101-$133 for families11.
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.
In WA, some providers offer Ambulance Cover as part of their Hospital, Extras, and Extras Cover (Ambulance Only).
There may be variations in waiting periods and cover for interstate travel. As always, read through the terms and conditions of your policy to be sure.
Fees for calling an ambulance in Perth can vary depending on the nature of the call-out.
You can check with your private health insurer to see if they provide any cover. If not, coverage fees are your responsibility.12
|Life threatening (Emergency - Priority 1)||$1,072|
|Urgent (Priority 2)||$1,072|
|Non-urgent (Priority 3)||$576|
|Patient Transfer Vehicle (Booked Priority 4 & 5)||$576|
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. Quite often, some levels of hospital cover will only cover you for emergency ambulance services which can catch a lot of people out.
If you’re not sure whether your private health insurance includes ambulance cover, you should contact them directly to check. You can also compare a range of policies and providers with iSelect*. Note, if you’re purchasing ambulance cover through iSelect, it will be through a Hospital and/or Extra package from our range of providers and policies as we do not offer ‘ambulance only’ policies.
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 hospital13.
WA residents who are aged 65 and over but do not receive a Centrelink pension can get a 50% discount on their ambulance account14.
Pensioners who’re under 65 and receive a Disability, Single Parent or Carers pension may also be entitled to a 50% discount on ambulance services. Health Care Card holders are not entitled to any discounts or concessions15.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold or White Card holders are covered for ambulance services in every state of Australia by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs16.
The structure and charging model of Western Australia’s ambulance service can be confusing.
If you live in Perth where it’s a “user pays”17 approach, it’s essential that you understand whether adequate ambulance cover is part of your private health insurance policy.
Contact your health fund directly to confirm you’re covered, or call iSelect on 1800 784 772 to compare a range of policies and providers*.
1 Australian Government Productivity Commission - Report on Gov't Services 2022
2 Victoria State Government Department of Health - Hospital Costs and Payments
3 Commonwealth Ombudsman Private Health Insurance, How Health Insurance Works (Ambulance)
4 St John WA - Ambulance Fees
5 St John WA - Ambulance Fees
6 Commonwealth Ombudsman- Private Health, How Insurance Works (Ambulance)
7 St John WA - Our History
8 St John Ambulance - Ambulance and Health Services
9 St John WA - Annual Report 21-22, pg 29
10 St John - Ambulance Fees
11 St John - Country Ambulance Cover
12 St John Wa - Ambulance Fees
13 St John - FAQ
14 St John - FAQ
15 St John - FAQ
16 Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs - Ambulance Transport
17 St John - Ambulance Fees
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