Residents of NSW who require ambulance treatment or transport services are billed 51% of the actual charge, and the NSW government subsidises the remaining 49% of the cost.2 Charges include a call-out fee plus additional charges per kilometre when transported by road, aircraft, helicopter or a combination of these ambulance services. Alternatively, NSW residents can purchase health insurance or a stand-alone ambulance cover from a private health insurer to be covered for ambulance transport.
Charges for VIC residents who require ambulance services can vary depending on whether the event is an emergency (or non-emergency), the mode of transport (e.g. road or air ambulance) and the location of the call out.3
You can be covered by purchasing ambulance cover through an Ambulance Victoria membership or a registered health fund.4
The QLD state government covers all ambulance costs for QLD residents, so you aren’t required to organise your own cover.5 Ambulance coverage in QLD extends across the entire country too, so that’s one less thing Sunshine State residents need to worry about when holidaying interstate.
If you need to claim for treatment in another state or territory, you can do so by forwarding any invoices you receive, as well as proof of QLD residency, to the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).
Like VIC, SA operates on a user-pays ambulance service where residents are charged based on the type of services required.6 Residents can purchase ambulance cover through their state’s ambulance authority (SA Ambulance Service) or a private health insurance policy.⁷
In WA, charges for ambulance services vary depending on whether you’re treated in a metro or country location. You can get ambulance cover through your health insurance provider or WA’s ambulance service (St John WA).8
The TAS state government provides free ambulance services to TAS residents within the state and its islands.9 The only exemptions to this are ambulance services related to motor vehicle or workplace accidents, where you’ll be required to send the ambulance invoice to the Motor Accidents Insurance Board and your workplace or WorkCover respectively.
Similar to NSW, ambulance charges in the NT are based on a call-out fee plus a charge per kilometre. Ambulance services can be covered by membership with St John Ambulance or private health insurance. St John Ambulance also provides cover for its Territorian members Australia-wide.10
If you reside in or close to the nation’s capital, chances are you will need to take out ambulance cover to avoid charges unless you’re a specific concession cardholder or meet ACT Ambulance Services’ exemption criteria.11 These specified, exempt groups are entitled to free ambulance services throughout the ACT and don’t require separate ambulance cover.
If you’re not eligible for free ambulance services, you should consider taking out cover through a registered Australian health fund.
Fortunately, emergency ambulance cover is included in policies widely available in the ACT.
Depending on your state of residence, most ambulance transport services and treatments are covered for pensioners and concession cardholders across the country.
Information and provisions regarding pensioners and concession cardholders ambulance cover are listed by states and territories below:
Please note: The information provided may only apply in your state of residence (unless you’re a QLD resident).
If you’re a NSW resident who is the current holder of any of the listed cards below, you’re not required to pay for ambulance transport or urgent ambulance services:1
VIC residents holding either a Health Care Card or Victorian Pensioner Concession Card can receive free, clinically necessary ambulance services around Australia, as well as transport to the nearest and most appropriate medical facility.1
If a cardholder is transported by ambulance from a private healthcare facility (including private hospitals and day surgery clinics), that facility is responsible for payment. However, it may choose to pass the cost onto the patient.
There may be eligibility requirements for pensioners and concession cardholders when obtaining free ambulance cover. Be sure to check with Ambulance Victoria to see if you’re eligible.
Permanent QLD residents are automatically covered for emergency ambulance treatment and transport Australia-wide.1 If you were interstate when you required ambulance services, you need to forward the ambulance invoice to QAS along with proof of QLD residency and your current QLD-issued Centrelink Pension Concession Card.5
You can also send documentation via email and, if eligible, the QAS may pay the invoice on your behalf.
Pensioners are eligible for discounted membership with the SA Ambulance Service; otherwise, ambulance cover can be purchased through private health insurance.7
WA residents aged 65 years and over who receive a government pension are entitled to free emergency ambulance services and non-urgent ambulance services that are deemed to be medically necessary.1
The state government covers ambulance services to all TAS residents within the state and its islands who require treatment and transport by ambulance.9 The TAS state government has reciprocal agreements in most states and territories (except QLD and SA), so Tasmanians can forward ambulance invoices from interstate services to the government for payment.
Other exceptions may apply in motor vehicle or workplace accidents where the insurance policies of the agreed parties would cover the cost.
NT residents who hold a current NT Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card don’t need to subscribe to St John Ambulance NT.1
Most Health Care Concession Card and Pensioner Concession Cardholders are entitled to free emergency ambulance services within the ACT.1 The ACT also has a reciprocal agreement in place with some states and territories (except for QLD, SA and WA), through which your interstate ambulance services are covered by the ACT Government.11
Although pensioners and healthcare concession cardholders are entitled to free ambulance services within the ACT, you may be sent an invoice mistakenly. If this occurs, you should photocopy the front and back of your concession card and return the copy with your ambulance invoice to the address provided.11 Alternatively, you can contact Shared Services Ambulance Finance.
If you don’t have ambulance cover, these are some of the potential costs residents could pay for transport in the event of an emergency:
|State/Territory||Call out fee ($)||Per kilometre charges ($)|
|ACT11||$1,000||$14 (travel outside of ACT)|
|NT12||$815 (first 10km)||$5.25 (per km greater than 10km)|
|Note: All fees are current as of October 2021. All fees represented in the table are for emergency road ambulance services (transport and treatment).|
Depending on the state or territory you live in, many health insurers include ambulance cover as part of their policies. Alternatively, you may be able to take this cover out on its own, although you would then miss out on some of the great benefits of health insurance, like dental cover and private hospital rooms (subject to availability).
There are two types of ambulance cover available through registered health funds: emergency and comprehensive. Both cover types vary depending on your policy and provider. Some offer cover for all ambulance transportation (such as helicopters), while others may only provide for road travel.
What’s more, some ambulance insurance policies may set further limitations, such as cover in your state of residence only or no cover for call-out fees if you’re treated at the scene without being transported to hospital.
It’s important to be aware of any other limitations or exclusions on your policy. For example, does your cover include all forms of emergency transport or is it only for road services? Does your policy cover ‘call out’ fees (when the ambulance treats you at the scene but doesn’t transport you to hospital)? Some ambulance services won’t treat you if they don’t think you clinically need it or will only transport you to the nearest medical centre.17 Make sure you read the policy description carefully to understand your entitlements and restrictions.
Ensuring your family is covered with health insurance is a smart move, as it offers peace of mind and can be financially worthwhile. The last thing that should be on any parent’s mind during an emergency is worrying about how they’ll pay for ambulance transport and services.
Most health insurance policies include ambulance cover, so it can’t be added on or taken off to adjust your premiums. To ensure your family is covered for urgent ambulance services and transport, you can compare various health providers.
Absolutely! Unless you live in certain states or are otherwise exempt, the alternative could be a very steep bill following a traumatic incident. Given the relatively low cost for cover, purchasing ambulance insurance is a great idea.
Please remember to always check with your state/territory ambulance service and your private health fund to ensure you’re covered for ambulance services as terms and conditions may change over time.
1 PrivateHealth.gov.au – Ambulance. Accessed October 2021.
2 NSW Government: NSW Ambulance – Accounts & Fees. Accessed November 2021.
3 Victoria State Government: Department of Health – Ambulance fees. Last reviewed July 2018. Accessed November 2021.
4 Victoria State Government: Department of Health – Ambulance cover. Last reviewed October 2015. Accessed November 2021.
5 Queensland Government – Interstate ambulance treatment and transport information for Queensland residents. Last updated December 2020. Accessed October 2021
6 SA Ambulance Service – Ambulance fees. Accessed November 2021.
7 SA Ambulance Service – Ambulance cover. Accessed November 2021.
8 St John WA – Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed November 2021.
9 Tasmania Government: Department of Health – Ambulance Tasmania: Fees and Accounts. Accessed November 2021.
10 Northern Territory Government – Ambulance services. Last updated May 2016. Accessed November 2021.
11 ACT Government: ACT Emergency Services Agency – Fees and charges. Accessed October 2021.
12 St John Ambulance Australia (NT) Inc. (St John NT) – Ambulance cover: Transport charges. Accessed October 2021.
13 St John WA – Metro Ambulance Fees. Accessed November 2021.
14 Australian Government: Productivity Commission – Report on Government Services 2021: part E, Section 11, Ambulance services. Published January 2021. Accessed November 2021.