Choosing Ambulance Cover in Australia – Compare & Review

Published: October 18, 2018

Medicare in Australia does not cover ambulance costs. Over 3 million people make use of ambulance services annually, which is why emergency and non-emergency transportation is essential.

While most of us hope never to have to call an ambulance for help, nothing is worse than being in the middle of a crisis and worrying that calling one might leave you financially vulnerable.

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Does Medicare cover ambulance services?

No, in Australia Medicare does not cover the cost of ambulance transportation, emergency or otherwise. The fees associated with a single ambulance ride can be hundreds of dollars. However, some states in Australia might cover some or even all your ambulance fees, depending on your circumstances and the territory you live in.

Ambulance services are generally free for residents of Queensland and Tasmania, but this is not the case Australia wide.

Ambulance costs in Australia

Medicare does not cover ambulance fees in Australia. Instead, the state you live in might provide certain concessions. The amount you’ll have to pay for an ambulance trip differs front state to state and generally depends on the transportation type you require, for example:

  • Road: Transportation via a motor vehicle for patients who are clinically stable, meaning not critical and those in need of immediate attention, for example, head and chest injuries.
  • Air: Helicopters and aeroplanes are generally used for emergency/urgent evacuation to save the life of a critical patient or to transport a person that’s in a remote location, for example in the wilderness.
  • Water: Boats are typically used to reach patients that need medical assistance and are in or close to the sea.

To avoid the considerable expenses of emergency and non-emergency ambulance fees, you might want to consider private health insurance.

Ambulance insurance from private health funds

Private health funds might offer 2 types of ambulance services:

number-1Emergency cover

Unlimited or capped ambulance cover, depending on your insurer and policy type, for air and road transportation for emergency situations only. This includes significant accidents, severe blood loss, broken bones, heart attacks and any sudden onset of pain.

number-1Comprehensive cover

This option usually includes on-the-spot emergency road, sea and air transport across Australia. It generally also covers transport between hospitals when necessary.

How to buy ambulance insurance from health funds

Generally, you can get ambulance services included in your hospital or extras policy or a combined hospital and extras package. Ambulance cover only insurance policies are also available from select insurers.

Hospital cover

Hospital policies may provide unlimited or capped emergency ambulance insurance.

Extras cover

One of the benefits generally included in an extras health insurance policy is comprehensive ambulance coverage. However, the level of protection and the waiting period will differ from insurer to insurer.

Ambulance cover only

You might be able to purchase a stand-alone ambulance policy from certain private health funds, like Bupa, Medibank, HBF and HCF. Such a policy will usually provide you with Australia-wide emergency only cover. However, select insurers might offer a Plus option which includes ambulance transportation for non-emergencies up to a certain amount.

The more expensive cover options usually include additional benefits, for example, ambulance call-out fees, where paramedics will treat you at the scene, but it’s not necessary for you to be taken to the hospital.

Be sure to shop around and compare different policy options from a variety of health funds before purchasing.

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Ambulance cover Australia wide

If you are a Department of Veteran Affairs Gold Card holder, the Department will generally cover you for state ambulance services in every state. If you’re not a gold card holder, review the below breakdown of ambulance insurance available from each territory.

Queensland and Tasmania get free ambulance insurance

Residents of Queensland and Tasmania generally do not have to pay for ambulance services, as their state governments usually cover costs.

  • QLD ambulance services will generally also cover the cost of ambulance transport if you need to claim for treatment while in another state or territory. Just forward any invoices to them, with proof of your Queensland residency.
  • Tasmanian ambulance service typically covers all ambulance fees for services rendered within Tasmania and its islands. However, charges could be made for motor vehicle and workplace accidents where appropriate insurance already covers the costs, as with veterans when the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) meets the cost of ambulance transport.

Ambulance insurance for residents of South Australia

The average cost of an emergency ambulance trip in South Australia is about $976. SA ambulance cover is available for purchase from private health funds.

Alternatively, you can get coverage from South Australia Ambulance Service (SAAS). You’ll pay extra if you want coverage when travelling interstate.

SAAS rates for ambulance insurance

Cover type Standard cover Standard plus interstate
Single $83 $98
Family $165 $195
Pensioner single $50 $65
Pensioner family $99.50 $129.50
Source: SA Ambulance (October 2018)

Ambulance cover NSW

The New South Whales government subsidies NSW residents’ emergency ambulance services by 49%. So, you might want to consider a private health insurance policy to cover the rest. However, if you are a pensioner or concession card holder, ambulance services could be provided free of charge.

Also, if you experience financial hardship, you can request a review of your invoice, which could result in reduced cost or even your fee being waived.

Ambulance insurance WA

Aged Pensioner concession card holders might be eligible for free ambulance transport services. Western Australians not eligible for a concession will have to pay for ambulance services either from a private health insurer or from St John Country Ambulance Cover which is provided by St John’s Ambulance Sub Centres.

St John WA membership cost 2018 to 2019

Source: St John Ambulance Australia (October 2018)

As a charitable, non-profit, humanitarian organisation, St John’s has been serving the WA for more than 120 years, providing ambulance transport 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day.

ACT, Northern Territory and Victoria

Residents living in the Northern Territory, ACT and Victoria, might want to consider private health insurance coverage to assist them in paying ambulance fees because generally only Health Care Concession Card and Pension Card holders are entitled to free emergency ambulance services.

Compare ambulance insurance cover options

Insurer Comparison
BUPA Ambulance only cover provides unlimited emergency ambulance services for all Australians in all states and territories by a Bupa recognised provider. You'll be covered immediately; there is no waiting period for emergency ambulance services. For an extra fee, you can add up to $5,000 worth of non-emergency cover.
HCF Ambulance cover only is available to NSW and ACT residents and covers unlimited emergency services and up to $5,000 non-emergency ambulance fees Australia wide. You’ll have to serve a 1 day waiting period for emergency ambulance and 2 months for non-emergency transportation.
Medibank Provides ambulance only services for unlimited emergency ambulance transport Australia wide with a 1 day waiting period. However, non-emergency cover is not available, and where the state or territory scheme fully cover costs, no benefit will be paid.
Nib When purchasing a nib hospital and/or extras cover policy, you’ll receive emergency ambulance transport with a 1-day waiting period.
HBF You can get ambulance only cover for urgent ambulance transport by road in Western Australia with the option of non-urgent transportation for an additional fee. A 7-day waiting period from the date you join is applicable.

Frequently asked questions and answers

Are pensioners covered for ambulance services?

Pensioners holding a Health Care Concession Card, Pensioner Concession Card or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card are generally entitled to free ambulance transport services. A pensioner concession card gives you access to cheaper healthcare while lowering the cost of some treatments and services. You usually need to be 60-plus to qualify for a concessions card.

Ambulance insurance from private health funds is available to pensioners who are not eligible for a Concession Card but would like to be covered.

How do I get ambulance cover?

Their respective state governments provide ambulance insurance for residents of TAS and QLD. If you receive an invoice, simply forward it to them. Australian pensioners are generally eligible to receive free ambulance cover if they're a valid concession card holder. All other state residents will need to purchase ambulance coverage either from a private health insurer or your state ambulance service provider.

How much is ambulance cover?

The cost of ambulance cover from a private health insurer depends on where in Australia you live and if you’re a resident, if you receive ambulance transport concessions from the state you live in and the policy type you purchase; Hospital, Extras or Ambulance Only cover.

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Ask an Expert?


  • Shirley Crowley |

    Good afternoon. I now hold a Govt Health Care Card and I do have private Ambulance Cover. However, I am told there is no cost re Ambulance services when holding a Health Care Card in NSW.

    I am over 60 years of age. Before I cancel my cover which falls due in November, I would like to be sure I am covered for free if needed. I live in NSW.

    Thank you

      Anneke Van Aswegen |

      Hello Shirley. Thank you for your question.

      When you hold a Health Care Card and receive ambulance services in NSW, then you will not need to pay. If you do receive a bill you can email it to [email protected] or call 1300 655 200 and provide your pension number and they’ll take care of the charges.

      Also, when travelling to Queensland and South Australia, you’ll also generally be covered for emergency ambulances. However, you might not be covered for non-emergencies or when travelling elsewhere in Australia. To be absolutely sure you’ll be covered, please give the Ambulance Service of New South Wales a call on (02) 9320 7777 between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday.

  • Lorraine Leslie |

    I am an aged pensioner living in the Northern Territory, but I have been travelling Australia wide. My question is, does my valid aged pension card allow me free ambulance transport in all states?
    Regards Lorraine

      Anneke Van Aswegen |

      Hello Lorraine,
      As a pension concession card holder your get free emergency ambulance services in the Northern Territory. However, should you travel to Queensland or South Australia, you will not be covered. So, you might want to invest in an ambulance only private health insurance or a St John Emergency Ambulance policy.

      If you need assistance, please call 1300 786 328.

  • Kassy Keys |

    Hello. We hold Pensioner concession cards and live in Queensland.

    According to RACQ, if we live in Qld we are covered under every state of Australia for Ambulance. We took out Bupa Ambulance only cover a few years ago and have just renewed it for $39 each a year. My question is, why do we need that cover if we live in Qld and travel interstate?

      Anneke Van Aswegen |

      Hi Kassy, great question.

      The simple answer is if you’re a permanent Queensland resident you probably don’t need emergency ambulance cover because ambulance transport for Queensland residents is free of charge. Just make sure you have the relevant proof of Queensland residency.