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Health Insurance Questions: Do You Need Ambulance Cover?

February 25th, 2012 0 comments
Health insurance & ambulance cover

Ambulance services and emergency transportation are simply some of those things that Medicare doesn’t cover. It is in these areas that private health insurance steps in to perform an essential role.

Take note however that private health funds aren’t the only providers here. State governments set up their own ambulance and emergency services for their residents. These can range from free to full cost depending on the state. As you compare health insurance products, don’t forget to consider ambulance cover that may be available from your local government.

Image by David McKelvey

Degrees of state ambulance services

Looking across the ambulance services from the different states, it can be said that there are three general types of state ambulance cover. There is complete ambulance cover, conditional coverage depending on the resident’s status, and no coverage at all.

Queensland and Tasmania

“Complete” cover means that the state handles all the costs involved and funds the service through a levy. This is more or less an all-inclusive ambulance cover in the sense that all residents of the state, regardless of status, can use the service. Queensland and Tasmania are the only Australian states that provide such coverage.

In the case of Queensland, the levy is actually collected through the electricity bill as a surcharge with a flat rate. The service is provided for any Queenslander and it extends anywhere in Australia. For those who live in Queensland or Tasmania, then, ambulance cover already dealt with and has no bearing when they compare private health funds.

Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Western Australia

Free or low-cost ambulance services and emergency transport in these three states depend mostly on the age and/or income of the resident.

In NSW, for example, certain types of pensioners or concession card holders such as those with Veterans’ Affairs or Health Care cards can receive these services free of charge. This state furthermore has what they call a Patient Hardship Policy where the patient’s financial or non-financial circumstances may be considered to lower or waiver fees.

WA also provides ambulance services free to its senior pensioners and gives a 50% discount to all other senior residents above 65 years of age.

Those who fall within these categories of exemption may even receive lower premiums in their hospital cover policies. Young and financially stable residents of these states, on the other hand, will need to consider ambulance cover in their health insurance comparison.

Northern Territory, South Australia and Victoria

For these states, ambulance cover can only be had from health funds or ambulance authorities. Ambulance Victoria, for example, is the sole provider for ambulance services and medical emergency transport for Victoria.  To get ambulance cover, a resident of this state will either have to purchase a membership with the organization, or include such coverage in his or her private health policy. If you have only Medicare cover, you will likely pay all the costs of using Ambulance Victoria’s services.

State ambulance authorities are still essentially private organizations, but subsidized and closely monitored by the local government. You can think of them as a sort of “ambulance only” insurance provider. The occasional large infusion of funds from the state may significantly lower the costs of such organizations. Nevertheless, residents of these states may find the greatest advantage in considering ambulance cover in their medical insurance comparison.

So, the answer to whether or not you need ambulance cover greatly depends on where you live, your age, and your circumstances. Terms and conditions regarding ambulance cover will vary from one health fund or state authority to another. Some may be limited to ground travel only, or may not cover on-site treatment that doesn’t require transport to a hospital. As always, read through product information statements and online information from both private insurers and state governments to know what to expect regarding this particular aspect of health service.

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