Putting members’ health before profit

Ambulance Cover Explained: How it Works, Benefits and Costs

Ambulance trips aren’t free in most Australian territories and states, and ambulance services aren’t covered by Medicare, so taking out ambulance cover is highly recommended.

To help you decide if it’s for you, we’ll break down Australian ambulance cover in-depth, looking at exactly how it works, the benefits of taking out a policy, and the costs associated with this insurance type.

ambulance driver

What is Ambulance Cover?

Ambulance cover is insurance that pays for paramedic and ambulance services in the event of an emergency or some non-emergencies.

Ambulance cover not only covers the actual transportation but also any paramedic treatment that you might require as part of the callout. Ambulance cover can also cover non-road ambulances, such as air ambulances, and, in more comprehensive policies, ambulance services on the water.

Ambulance cover can also give you the option of going to a clinic or facility of your choice, rather than the nearest facility by default. This, however, depends on the individual scope of your chosen policy. That’s why it’s important to always read the full scope of your policy in detail.

What are the Benefits of Ambulance Cover?

Ambulance cover ensures that you’re not out of pocket in the unfortunate case of an emergency (or even non-emergency) where an ambulance or other medical vehicle is required.

The extent of the coverage can vary, however, as previously mentioned, more comprehensive policies can even cover inter-hospital trips, as well as any air and sea transport that might be required.

Benefits include:

  • The availability of nationwide cover. Australia-wide ambulance cover is an option provided by most private health funds meaning you’re covered when you travel between states and territories.
  • Cover for as many family members as you need. If you have a family, then you can get family-wide ambulance cover, rather than individual policies for each member. This will cover your dependent children under 25 as long as they’re full-time students. Some private health funds cover dependent children up to 31 years of age.
  • No charges incurred for ambulance callouts. The biggest benefit, of course, is the fact that you won’t have to pay for ambulance services when you have this particular type of cover.

What Does Ambulance Cover Include?

It depends on the ambulance membership/level of cover you have. At the most basic level, policies will typically:

  • Provide emergency ambulance transport to the appropriate hospital or medical facility.
  • Send ambulances out to provide immediate medical attention (even if transport to the hospital isn’t required).
  • Provide ambulance services with no annual limit.
  • Cover trips between private hospitals.

More comprehensive ambulance cover policies might include:

  • Non-emergency ambulance services (though often capped).
  • Non-road emergency transport.

Who is Ambulance Cover for?

Ambulance cover is for anyone who can have a medical emergency that requires an ambulance trip and isn’t exempt from paying ambulance costs. In certain states, pensioners and low-income earners don’t pay ambulance fees, so it’s important to check before choosing your policy.

It is, however, especially important for those who don’t live in territories or states where call-out fees are covered, as well as those with lower incomes who might not be able to afford the unexpected use of ambulance transportation in emergency cases.

If you already have private health cover, such as hospital cover, extras cover, or combined cover, you may already have ambulance cover included, so it’s worth checking your policy.

How Does Ambulance Cover Work?

To get ambulance cover, you simply take out a policy with your chosen health insurance provider.

When you receive a bill from an ambulance provider, send it through to your health insurance provider and they’ll pay the fee. Alternatively, your insurer might request that you pay the bill before they send you the money through to cover the cost.

It’s important that you send the bill to your insurer before the bill’s due date as insurers are unlikely to cover additional charges incurred as a result of late payment.


What are the Types of Ambulance Cover Available in Australia?

There are a number of different ambulance cover types in Australia, including:

Private Ambulance Cover

Private ambulance cover can be purchased through a private health fund. For a standalone ambulance cover policy, you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of $5-$10 per month.

Government Ambulance Cover

Ambulance services are a State and Territory responsibility, so some arrangements can differ depending on where you live. 

If you’re a resident of Queensland and Tasmania, the state covers the cost of emergency transport. 

If you’re a resident of Victoria or Western Australia, you pay a fixed fee. 

If you’re a resident of ACT, New South Wales, Northern Territory or South Australia, you pay a call-out charge plus a per kilometre charge. 

Health and Ambulance Cover

Health cover is typically seen as the next step up from ambulance cover in the Australian healthcare system, and as such usually comes with ambulance cover included. Most policies will include a 1-day waiting period for ambulance cover with slightly longer waiting periods for non-emergency transport, often ranging from a fortnight to a couple of months.

How Much Does Ambulance Cover Cost?

The cost of ambulance coverage varies depending on the insurer and the level of coverage you desire.

On the lower end of the spectrum, you might expect to pay somewhere between $40 and $70 annually, depending on the insurer and the level of coverage you want (standard or premium/medically necessary or emergency cover).

How Much Do I Pay if I Don’t Have Ambulance Cover?

If you don’t have ambulance cover, then you’ll have to pay a call-out fee of between $415 and $1,927 for emergency road transport by ambulance, depending on the state, even if the situation is an emergency. Additionally, there’s a cost per travelled kilometre in some states (such as ACT and NSW).

If you need to pay for an air ambulance, you’re looking at considerably more. In the event that you’re out in the bush and have an emergency that requires a helicopter ride, call-out fees can rack up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Should I Get Ambulance Cover?

For people living in states with call-out fees for ambulance services (see below), it’s advisable to get ambulance cover, even if it’s only a basic policy. Medical emergencies are stressful enough already without having to worry about incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses on top of that. Australian health funds will offer various levels of ambulance insurance as part of their service provision.

How Do I Choose the Right Ambulance Cover for Me?

Research and compare.

It’s important to do your research before committing to an ambulance cover policy. And remember that ambulance cover can either be provided as a standalone policy or as part of private health cover.

You need to start by figuring out exactly what you need, like whether you need ambulance cover for your whole family or want a bit more cover when it comes to actually receiving care in a hospital (you’d want hospital cover for this).

When comparing policies, make sure it ticks those boxes and is a reliable provider. Always do a quick search for reviews from existing policyholders before making your decision.

Get Ambulance Cover, Today!

By now, you’ve likely realised that ambulance cover can be well worth the small investment, if you haven’t already.

Given that you can get cover for as little as $5 per month (and sometimes even less), it’s worth it for the peace of mind alone. Otherwise, you never know when you might be hit with a hefty unexpected bill, should the worst happen.

Plus, remember that depending on your policy, you may have a choice over where you’re taken, giving you greater freedom over your own healthcare.

To make sure your ambulance costs are covered in the event of an emergency, check out our trusted list of members funds. Each of our 25 health funds is not-for-profit or member-owned, meaning they give back to the communities they serve and can represent excellent value for money.

Getting the right cover for you and your family is crucial, and with Members Health, you can do just that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which States Have Free Ambulance Cover?

Tasmania and Queensland are the only two states to have state ambulance schemes and therefore completely free emergency ambulance services.

Do You Need Ambulance Cover if It’s Free in Your State?

Because other states have different policies when it comes to ambulance services, it’s important that you don’t get caught out. If you live in Tasmania or Queensland, then you’d be forgiven for forgetting about the fact that not all ambulance services are free like they are at home.

Many states have reciprocal agreements with each other which means they may cover some of the ambulance costs. For example, Tasmania has reciprocal agreements with all states except South Australia and Queensland. 

If you frequently visit a particular state, it’s worth checking if it has a reciprocal agreement with your home state.

If you travel a lot (whether for work or leisure) then we’d recommend getting ambulance cover, even if you live in Tasmania or Queensland. That way, you know that you’ll be safe and covered throughout Australia, wherever you are.

Do Pensioners Get Free Ambulance Cover in Australia?

Generally speaking, pensioners are eligible to receive free ambulance services in Australia provided they’re a valid concession card holder. For those over 60 to get a valid concession card, they must have been receiving one of the following payments for at least nine months:

  • Parenting Payment partnered
  • Special Benefit
  • JobSeeker Payment

In certain states, however, ambulance services aren’t free for pensioners but are discounted.

In SA, for instance, pensioner concession card holders are eligible for reduced rates on SA ambulance cover, starting at $58 annually for a single pensioner.

Similarly, in WA, pensioners who don’t receive a Centrelink Age Pension don’t receive free ambulance services and instead are entitled to a 50% reduction on normal ambulance fees.

Is Anyone Else Entitled to Free Ambulance Services?

Alongside pensioners who are concession card holders (in most states, at least), those on low incomes are also often entitled to free ambulance services. That’s because pensioner concession cards, despite the name, can also be held by those with a partial capacity to work, and who are receiving any of the following payments:

  • Youth Allowance (as a job seeker)
  • Parenting Payment partnered
  • JobSeeker Payment

If you hold a Health Care Card and live in an eligible state, you may also be entitled to free ambulance transport.

Does Private Health Insurance Cover Ambulance?

Most private health insurance providers will cover ambulance services as part of their policy, however, it’s important you check before taking out a policy, and don’t just assume that it does.

What Happens if an Ambulance is Called By Somebody Else?

Another thing to be aware of is that, even if you’re not the person who called the ambulance, you’re liable for the ambulance fee.

The ABC shared an example of a surfer who, having had a tricky surf, had had an ambulance called by a passer-by who had become concerned.

The surfer let the ambulance crew know he didn’t need the ambulance, but because it had been called out, he was lumped with the callout fee of $500.

Does Medicare Cover Ambulance?

Ambulance services are not covered by Medicare, and not even emergency transport is covered. However, depending on the state or territory in which you live, you may be eligible for certain discounts on ambulance services, or even find that it’s completely free (e.g. Tasmania).

How Many Ambulance Callouts Are There Per Year?

Some people think it’s worth taking the chance that they probably won’t need an ambulance

But the reality is that between 2021 and 2022, there were almost five million emergency ambulance responses in Australia. Across all the states and territories, the lowest number of responses per 1,000 people was 143.3 (with the highest being 269.6 per 1,000 people).

With stats like those, is it really worth saving a minor expense and a small bit of admin when the odds might not be in your favour?

What are the Australian Ambulance Service Providers?

Final Thoughts

A trip in the ambulance is something nobody wants to think about, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your money and your health.

Don’t put off getting your ambulance cover, and don’t just assume your private health cover automatically has built-in ambulance cover – make sure, because you don’t want to find yourself caught out and having been handed a bill for thousands of dollars.