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Choosing Ambulance Cover in Australia – Compare & Review

Anneke Van Aswegen Updated: 11 May 2020
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Types of Health Insurance

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:

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:

Emergency 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.

Comprehensive 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.

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

Insurer Single Family
Country Volunteer Subcentres /
South of the 26th Parallel
$55 $91
Country Volunteer Subcentres /
North of the 26th Parallel
$73 $121
Career Country Sub Centres $73 $121

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

  • 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 or discounted emergency ambulance transport services, depending on the state you live in. 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.

Health Insurance Quotes

  • Reduce out-of-pocket expenses
  • Keep your family healthy
  • Easy and convenient
  • Free to use

Want to talk to a specialist? Call 1300 743 254

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