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Do you need health insurance for ambulance? 

Young and healthy but concerned you need health cover for ambulance and accident? We examine your options.

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Last updated: 08 February 2021
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Even without private insurance, you don't need to worry about copping a bill for tens of thousands of dollars if you get hit by a bus or need your appendix out. Medicare covers emergency care in a public hospital.

However, you may want cover in a private hospital for rehabilitation and ongoing treatments associated with having an accident, or cover for ambulance transportation. 

In some states, cover for ambulance is only available from health insurance funds. For expert guidance finding a policy that matches your needs, compare your health insurance options.

Do you need ambulance cover?

A trip to hospital in an ambulance can easily cost about $1000, depending on how far away you are from the nearest hospital. 

But if it's just ambulance cover you're concerned about, you may find you're already covered by your state government, or that a state subscription service might offer the best value. Your options depend on where you live.  

  • Tasmania and Queensland – ambulance trips are covered by the state governments. (Tasmanian residents are currently not covered for ambulance if they travel in NSW, QLD and SA while Queensland residents are covered in all states)
  • NSWACT and Perth metro area (including Fremantle and Armadale) – ambulance cover is only available from health insurance funds.
  • Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and rural WA – ambulance cover is available with your health insurance or by subscribing to your state ambulance service.

If you're a pensioner or concession card-holder, you may be entitled to free ambulance cover – check with your state ambulance service.

What you need to know about ambulance cover with your health insurance

If you get ambulance cover with your health insurance, you need to know that you'll often only be covered for emergency ambulance. You may not be covered for:

  • ambulance officers treating you 'at the scene' if you don't need to get taken to hospital
  • non-emergency transfer to hospital (for example, for ongoing treatment)
  • more than one trip per person, or two per family per year
  • evacuation by air or sea ambulance – sometimes only road ambulance is covered.

Are ambulance subscriptions the best option?

Ambulance subscriptions usually don't have the same restrictions as private health insurance.

Extras insurance may offer a refund for an ambulance service subscription – depending on the policy, you may be entitled to a 60% refund, for example. But there's no health insurance rebate on state ambulance subscriptions, as there is on private health insurance.

Ambulance-only insurance cover 

If you don't need private health insurance, there is another way to get covered for ambulance. 

Several health insurers, including Medibank and Bupa, offer ambulance-only cover without health insurance. This doesn't cover you for treatment in hospital – only for the transportation there by ambulance.

But it is a lot cheaper than health insurance and the cover conditions for ambulance can also be better. Ambulance-only cover is:

  • a good option in ACT, NSW and metropolitan WA where you can not get a subscription with a state ambulance service if you don't want to buy private health insurance
  • a way for Tasmanian residents travelling to NSW, South Australia or Queensland to get cover for ambulance, as they aren't covered by their state ambulance service when travelling in those states.
  • not needed by Queensland residents, who are covered Australia-wide by their state government
  • worth comparing with an ambulance subscription in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and regional WA, if all you want is cover for ambulance.

Ambulance-only cover also attracts the health insurance rebate. But it does not help you avoid Lifetime Health Cover loadings or the Medicare Levy Surcharge, as you need hospital cover for that. Find out more about hospital insurance

Compared: ambulance-only insurance and ambulance subscriptions

In the states where you can buy ambulance subscriptions only, the Bupa emergency only ambulance cover is cheaper than an ambulance subscription (for a family). 

But ambulance subscriptions usually also cover some non-emergency ambulance transport, so you need to make sure you get the cover you need.

Ambulance cover options ($)*

NT 

SA

VIC

WA

Subscription

130

(A)

97

(B)

Medibank 

155

175

133

133

Bupa emergency 

87

87

87

87

Bupa premium 

227

221

243

121

Table notes:

*For a family for 12 months. Some ambulance services give discounts for subscriptions of two or more years. Medibank and Bupa premiums are after the health insurance rebate. If you earn more than $180,000 (couple/family), you will pay more. 

(A) $ 176 for cover in SA, $208 for cover in SA and interstate.

(B) Ambulance subscriptions available in rural WA only; $95 if you live south of the 26th Parallel and $125 if you live north of it, or somewhere serviced by Country sub-centres such as Kalgoorlie, Broome or Albany. See the St John Ambulance website.

Ambulance services in your state or territory

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