When you’re so ill you cannot get to the hospital by yourself, you are forced to rely upon an ambulance. Absolutely the last thing in the world you want to be thinking about when you’re frightened and in pain is the cost of the trip. Yet for many ambulance users a staggeringly high bill is just what awaits. Ambulance cover is not included in all health insurance policies, or may only cover ambulance services in the state you reside in.
In order to protect yourself from huge ambulance-related bills, it’s wise to have ambulance cover. But which is better: ambulance cover that’s incorporated into your health insurance or separate ambulance cover?
Why Are Ambulances So Expensive?
The price of ambulance services has gone up considerably in the last five to ten years. Transportation costs are a factor: The farther you live from a hospital, the more you are going to have to pay because the petrol costs and wear and tear on the ambulance itself are factored into your bill. The size of your bill will also depend on how large the ambulance coverage area is, and what contractual arrangements the company has with towns, municipalities and states for reimbursement through tax revenues.
When You Are Exempt From an Ambulance Bill
Every ambulance service in Australia has a different method of billing for its services. There are some contexts in which you will automatically be exempt from paying your ambulance bill. Generally speaking, however, you are likely to be held responsible for some portion of your ambulance bill if you are not receiving state-mandated welfare.
• Disability: If you are disabled, the cost of ambulance services may be covered.
• School Children: If your school has While-At-School ambulance cover, the cost of ambulance services may be met by that policy.
• Motor Vehicle Accidents: In the event of a motor vehicle accident, compulsory third party insurance – also known as CTP or “greenslips” – should cover both ambulance and medical costs.
• Private Health Insurance: If your private health insurance covers ambulance fees, then your insurance company covers the cost of ambulance services. Be sure to read your policy’s fine print: Some policies will only cover ambulance services in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
State-Financed Ambulance Coverage
• Queensland: Queensland ambulance service costs are free and funded by the state government for all QLD residents throughout Australia.
• New South Wales: New South Wales residents who hold either health care concession cards or pensioner concession cards will have the cost of emergency ambulance transport covered by the New South Wales government but those who do not qualify for this will need to have private health insurance or cover the costs themselves.
- • Victoria: Residents in VIC must either have a direct subscription to Ambulance Victoria or cover themselves through health insurance.
- • The Australian Capital Territory: ACT residents who hold either health care concession cards or pensioner concession cards will have the cost of emergency ambulance transport covered by the state government but those who do not qualify for this will need to have private health insurance or cover the costs themselves.
- • Tasmania: There is free ambulance transport to all residents of Tasmania. Reciprocal agreements exist with all other states except SA and QLD.
- • South Australia: Residents in SA must either have a direct subscription to South Australia Ambulance Service or cover themselves through health insurance.
- WA and NT: Both WA and NT use St John Ambulance Australia, which is under contract to the state governments. Those living within the Perth metropolitan area need to cover themselves through health insurance though. WA Aged Pensioners receive free ambulance services but other pensioners must pay half of the costs.
Interstate Ambulance Cover
In most cases, ambulance cover will only cover you for ambulance transport to the nearest hospital capable of providing you with the treatment your illness or injury requires. If you become ill while you are travelling, ambulance cover may not be available to transport you for treatment to the state in which you reside.
The most prudent course is to check to see whether the state or territory in which you reside has a reciprocal ambulance cover arrangement with the state or territory you are travelling in.