Confused about ambulance cover

I’m confused and I’m not the only one. I’m talking about ambulance cover.

A recent study found that almost 25 per cent of Australians believe ambulance services are free.

That’s not true – for most of us. It’s also not true that an ambulance subscription in one state or territory will necessarily cover you in another.

Some health insurance policies cover you, some don’t, and their level of cover should be clarified.

We were alerted to the confusion by Phil.

He wrote: “My 85-year-old mother who lives in South Australia … visited us in Victoria recently. She had a fall at Warburton and was transported by ambulance to Ringwood. On returning home, she received a bill for $1200. Apparently if she wanted cover in states outside of SA, she needed to pay a higher premium but never knew of this. Perhaps this was not the case when she first started paying back in the 1990s.

“Could you please investigate? Perhaps many readers may not be aware that they risk a hefty bill if they have an accident requiring an ambulance when visiting family interstate.”

This is what we found.

Some states cover you Australia-wide, some don’t. Some have free ambulance cover, some don’t. Private health insurance policies may include some level of ambulance cover, depending on the policy and the state you live in. You need to check with your insurer to find out the level of cover and/or whether you should take out separate ambulance cover.

Also, ambulance cover may not be required by anyone with health care, pensioner concession, seniors and repatriation cards. But that too differs between states and territories.

If there is no health insurance policy involved …

In South Australia: “From 1 November, 2016, South Australians will continue to have access to interstate ambulance cover with the launch of a new tiered scheme,” the SA Ambulance Service says on its website. “Standard ambulance cover will continue to include all ambulance attendance within South Australia, with interstate coverage available for an additional $15 per year or $30 for those on family plans.”

Therein lies the problem for Phil’s mum.

In Victoria, an Ambulance Victoria subscription will qualify you for free transport in case of emergencies, paramedic care and air ambulance services throughout Australia. A variety of packages are available. Make sure you have the right one.

In New South Wales, residents are covered for ambulance services if they have private health insurance. Check with your fund for more detail on the level of cover.

The same applies in the ACT, but again, check with your health insurer.

In Queensland, all residents are automatically covered by Community Ambulance Cover for transport anywhere in Australia.

In Tasmania, an ambulance subscription is free for residents within the state and the service has some reciprocal agreements with other states,

In Western Australia, ambulance coverage depends on where you live – in a metropolitan area or in the country. If you’re classed as a metro resident you need to organise cover through a health fund; if you’re a country resident, then you need St John’s cover. But check what is considered to be metropolitan. WA has reciprocal agreements with SA the ACT and Queensland.

In the Northern Territory, a policy with St John’s Ambulance can cover you for services throughout Australia.

To ensure there will be no nasty surprises, double-check any limitations or changes that may apply to a state ambulance subscription. For example, does it include all forms of emergency transport or is it for ground services only? Emergency air transport could break the bank. And always ask: has anything changed?

Have you been caught out with ambulance cover?

Related articles:
Do pensioners get free cover?
Free apps that could save your life
Health care between states

Written by Janelle Ward

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