Ambulance insurance covers certain expenses incurred when being treated by paramedics and transported in ambulances. Emergency transportation and ambulance services are essential for urgent medical care but aren’t covered by Medicare.
According to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services 2019, there were 3.7 million emergency incidents recorded in 2017-18.¹ This resulted in 4.3 million ambulance service responses attending to 3.2 million patients across Australia. With a population of more than 25 million people,² that’s a lot of people relying on this crucial service we often take for granted.
Since ambulance cover differs across the country, we’ve broken it down by state and territory.
Residents of NSW are billed 51% of the actual (emergency service) charge, as the NSW government subsidises the remaining 49% of the cost.⁴ However, residents are charged a call out fee plus additional charges per kilometre when transported by road, aircraft, helicopter or a combination of these ambulance services.
If you reside in Victoria, you can purchase ambulance cover through membership with Ambulance Victoria or through a registered health fund.⁵ Additionally, Victorians who hold a current concession card (Pensioner Concession Card, Healthcare Card) are entitled to free, clinically necessary ambulance cover.
The QLD state government covers ambulance costs, so you aren’t required to organise your cover.⁶ Ambulance coverage in Queensland extends across the entire country too, so that’s one less thing Sunshine State residents need to worry about when holidaying interstate.
If you need to claim for treatment in another state or territory, you can do so by forwarding any invoices you receive, as well as proof of Queensland residency, to the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).
Like VIC, SA residents can purchase ambulance insurance through their state’s ambulance authority (SA Ambulance Service) or a private health insurance policy.⁷
In WA, you can get ambulance insurance through your health insurance provider or WA’s ambulance service (St John WA).³ If you’re over 65 years of age and receive a government pension, you may be eligible for free emergency ambulance services.
The Tasmanian state government provides free ambulance service to Tasmanian residents within the state and its islands.⁸ The only exemptions to this are ambulance services related to motor vehicle or workplace accidents where you’ll be required to send the ambulance invoice to the Motor Accidents Insurance Board and your workplace/WorkCover respectively.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) cardholders can forward their ambulance invoices with their DVA number to Ambulance Tasmania for processing.
Ambulance services in NT are covered by membership with St John Ambulance or private health insurance. St John Ambulance also provides cover for its members Australia-wide.⁹
If you reside in or close to the nation’s capital, chances are you’ll need to take out ambulance cover unless you’re a specific concession cardholder or otherwise meet ACT Ambulance Services’ exemption criteria.¹⁰ These specified, exempt groups are entitled to free ambulance services throughout the ACT, and don’t require separate ambulance cover.
Anyone not eligible for free ambulance services should consider taking out cover through a registered Australian health fund. Fortunately, emergency ambulance cover is included in policies widely available in the ACT.
If you currently don’t have ambulance cover, these are some of the potential costs you could pay in the event of an emergency (in addition to sickness or injury):
|State/Territory||Call out fee||Per kilometre charges|
|ACT¹⁰||$982 (treatment & transport)||$13 per km travelled outside of ACT|
|NT¹¹||$815 (first 10 km)||$5.25 (every km after the first 10)|
$1,866 (regional and rural)
|Note: All fees are current as of 3 August 2020. All fees represented in the table are for emergency road ambulance services.|
Depending on the state or territory you live in, many health insurers include ambulance cover as part of their policies. Alternatively, you may be able to take this cover out on its own, although you would then miss out on some of the great benefits of health insurance, like dental cover and private hospital rooms (subject to availability).
There are two types of ambulance cover available through registered health funds: emergency and comprehensive. Both cover types vary depending on your policy and provider. Some offer cover for all ambulance transportation, while others may only provide for road travel.
What’s more, some ambulance insurance policies may set further limitations, such as cover in your state of residence only, or may not cover call-out fees if you’re treated at the scene without being transported to hospital.
It’s important to be aware of any other limitations or exclusions on your policy. For example, does your cover include all forms of emergency transport, or is it only for road services? Does your policy cover ‘call out’ fees (when the ambulance treats you at the scene but doesn’t transport you to hospital)? Make sure you read the policy description carefully to understand your entitlements and restrictions.
Depending on your state of residence, most ambulance transport services and treatments are covered for pensioners across the country.
Information and provisions regarding pensioner’s ambulance cover are listed by states and territories below:
If you’re a current holder of any of the listed cards below, you‘re not required to pay for ambulance transport or urgent ambulance services:⁴
Victorian residents holding eligible concession cards can receive free, clinically necessary ambulance services around Australia, as well as transport to the nearest and most appropriate medical facility.¹⁵
If a Victorian Pensioner Concession cardholder is transported by ambulance from a private healthcare facility (including private hospitals and day surgery clinics), that facility is responsible for payment. However, it may choose to pass the cost onto the patient.
There may be requirements associated with pensioners and concession cardholders obtaining free ambulance cover. Be sure to check with Ambulance Victoria to see if you’re eligible.
Permanent Queensland residents are automatically covered for emergency ambulance treatment and transport Australia-wide.⁶ If you were interstate when you required ambulance services, you should forward the invoice to QAS, along with proof of Queensland residency with your current Queensland issued Centrelink Pension Concession Card.
You can also send documentation via email and if eligible, the QAS may pay the invoice on your behalf.
Western Australian residents aged 65 years and over, who receive a government pension, are entitled to free emergency ambulance services.³
Pensioners are eligible for discounted membership with the SA Ambulance Service; otherwise, ambulance cover can be purchased through private health insurance.¹⁶
The State Government covers ambulance services to all Tasmanian residents within the state and its islands who require treatment/transport by ambulance.⁸ The Tasmanian state government has reciprocal agreements in all states and territories (except QLD and SA), so Tasmanians can forward ambulance invoices from interstate services to the government for payment.
Other exceptions may apply in motor vehicle or workplace accidents where the insurance policies of the agreed parties would cover the cost.
Most Health Care Concession Card and Pensioner Concession cardholders are entitled to free emergency ambulance services within the ACT.¹⁰ ACT also has a reciprocal agreement in place with all states and territories – except for QLD, SA and WA – through which you can have your interstate ambulance services covered by the ACT government.
Although pensioners are entitled to free ambulance services within the ACT, you may be sent an invoice mistakenly. If this occurs, you should photocopy the front and back of your concession card and return the copy with your ambulance invoice to the address provided or contact Shared Services Ambulance Finance.
NT residents who hold a current NT Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card don’t need to subscribe to St John Ambulance NT.¹¹
Ensuring your family is covered with health insurance is a smart move, as it offers peace of mind and can be financially worthwhile. The last thing that should be on any parent’s mind during an emergency is worrying about if they’re covered for ambulance transport and services.
Most health insurance policies include ambulance cover, so it can’t be added on or taken off to adjust your premiums. To ensure your family is covered for urgent ambulance services and transport, you can compare a variety of different health providers.
Absolutely! Unless you live in certain states or are otherwise exempt, the alternative could be a very steep bill following a traumatic incident. Given the relatively low cost for cover, purchasing ambulance insurance is a great idea.
Please remember to always check with your state/territory ambulance service and your private health fund to ensure you’re covered for ambulance services as terms and conditions may change over time.
¹ Australian Government: Productivity Commission – Report on Government Services 2019. Part E Health, Chapter 11 Ambulance Services. Published January 2019. Accessed December 2019.
² Australian Bureau of Statistics – 3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Mar 2019. Published September 2019. Accessed December 2019.
³ PrivateHealth.gov.au – Ambulance. Accessed December 2019.
⁴ NSW Government: NSW Ambulance – Accounts & Fees. Accessed August 2020.
⁵ Victoria State Government: health.vic – Ambulance cover. Accessed December 2019.
⁶ Queensland Government – Interstate ambulance treatment and transport information for Queensland residents. Last updated September 2016. Accessed December 2019.
⁷ Government of South Australia – About emergency services. Last updated November 2019. Accessed December 2019.
⁸ Tasmanian Government: Department of Health – Ambulance Tasmania – Fees and accounts. Accessed December 2019.
⁹ Northern Territory Government – Ambulance Services. Last updated July 2020. Accessed August 2020.
¹⁰ ACT Government: ACT Emergency Services Agency – Fees and charges. Accessed December 2019.
¹¹ St John Ambulance Australia (NT) Inc. (St John NT) – Ambulance cover: Transport charges. Accessed August 2020.
¹² SA Ambulance Service – Ambulance fees. Accessed August 2020.
¹³ Victoria State Government: health.vic – Ambulance fees. Accessed December 2019.
¹⁴ St John Ambulance Western Australia – Metro ambulance fees. Accessed December 2019.
¹⁵ Ambulance Victoria – AV membership FAQ. Last updated August 2019. Accessed December 2019.
¹⁶ SA Ambulance Service – Ambulance cover. Accessed December 2019.