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How much does it cost to call an emergency ambulance in my state?

5 minute read
an emergency ambulance driving with a tradie getting paramedic help

If you’re in an emergency situation with an ambulance on the way, you might be in for the most expensive ride of your life. And, if you’re one of the 30% of Australians who think Medicare will cover the cost, you’re in for a shock.

For those who call Queensland home, your State Government will pick up the bill. Tasmanian residents get a similar benefit with a few exceptions1, as we have outlined below. For everyone else, ambulance trips don’t come cheap.

The average ambulance claim for nib members in the 2019/20 financial year was $9802, which is why it might be time to consider private health insurance, because without it, you might have to pay a hefty fee.

If you’re not covered by your State Government, nib offers unlimited emergency ambulance cover regardless of what Hospital or Extras Cover you choose, so if you sign up to nib, you’ll get the help you need, when and as often as you need it – that's the bottom line.

Does Medicare cover the cost of an ambulance?

Medicare does not cover the cost of emergency transport or ambulance services to hospital. As a result, ambulance costs are different in each state and territory, with a few exemptions and exceptions.

To help, we’ve created an easy guide that outlines how much you can expect to pay in each state and territory across Australia.

Credit: nib health insurance

Cost of an ambulance in NSW

NSW residents will be charged a call-out fee of $401 for an emergency ambulance, plus an additional charge of $3.62 per kilometre (from the ambulance station to your pick-up address, to the destination and back to the ambulance station), regardless of whether you require transport by road or air. The maximum amount you can expect to pay is $6,571. These amounts are reflective of 51% of the cost of an ambulance service, with the NSW Government providing a 49% subsidy.

Some NSW ambulance services are provided free of charge to those eligible for exemptions. For more information about the criteria for exemptions, visit NSW Ambulance.

Cost of an ambulance in Queensland

Queenslanders, you’re in luck as your ambulance services are provided free of charge by your State Government.

You’re covered when it comes to emergency pre-hospital ambulance treatment and transport Australia-wide. That means whether you’re on the Sunshine Coast or in Sydney, you won’t have to pay for an ambulance, as long as you can prove you’re a permanent Queensland resident and provide QAS with the required documentation.

If you receive an invoice for interstate ambulance treatment, simply forward the invoice to the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) for payment. If you’re eligible, QAS will arrange to pay the invoice on your behalf.

Cost of an ambulance in Victoria

In Victoria, unless you have an Ambulance Victoria membership, concession entitlement or other coverage, you can expect to pay $1,265 for an ambulance trip in the city and $1,866 if you’re in a regional or rural area to cover the cost. If you need transport via the sky, you’ll be paying $3,033 for a plane trip and up to $26,852 for a helicopter. That’s not exactly loose change!

Ambulance Victoria will decide which transport type suits best based on the resources at the time of the request and the urgency of the situation.

A number of exceptions apply if the person requiring transport meets the relevant eligibility requirements. For more information, visit Ambulance Victoria.

Cost of an ambulance in South Australia

If you’re a resident of South Australia, you can expect to pay a minimum call-out fee of $233 for a non-emergency ambulance and $1,044 in an emergency. In both instances, you can also expect to pay a per kilometre fee of $6.

If you’re a South Australian pensioner and can’t pay your ambulance bill via a third party (like a private health fund), you may be eligible for a concession. Other exemptions apply. For more information, visit SA Ambulance Service.

Cost of an ambulance in Western Australia

In Western Australia, you will be charged from $1,006 for an emergency ambulance. Fees for calling an ambulance can vary depending on the nature of the call-out e.g. whether life-threatening, urgent or non-urgent.

If you’re a Western Australian aged pensioner, you’re exempt from all ambulance costs.

Cost of an ambulance in the Australian Capital Territory

If you’re an ACT resident, you can expect to pay at least $982 for transport in an emergency ambulance. If the ambulance has to travel outside of the ACT into NSW, there’s an extra $13 for every kilometre added to the bill.

For an emergency ambulance service including treatment but excluding transport, you can expect to pay $681. This could include services like first aid, medical advice or a medical examination and assessment.

Most aged pension and concession card holders won’t have to pay for ambulance services within the ACT. Other exemptions apply. For more information about exemptions, visit ACT Emergency Services Agency.

Cost of an ambulance in Northern Territory

The minimum cost of an emergency ambulance for a non-life threatening emergency in the Northern Territory is $370. If your emergency is life threatening, your ambulance call-out fee will be $815. Plus, for all call-outs, every kilometre travelled greater than 10km incurs an extra per kilometre fee of $5.25.

NT concession card holders may be entitled to free ambulance transport in the Northern Territory. Other exemptions apply. For more information, visit St John Ambulance NT.

Cost of an ambulance in Tasmania

Emergency ambulance services are generally provided free of charge in Tasmania, as long as a third-party payment, such as motor insurance, isn’t available. If you’re visiting the mainland, you’ll be covered in all states and territories except NSW, South Australia and Queensland.

Providing Ambulance Tasmania are able to determine you’re a Tasmanian resident and the circumstances prove you’re not responsible for payment, an invoice will likely not be generated.

What if I don’t have insurance??

If you don’t have ambulance cover, or subscribe to your state’s ambulance membership scheme3, you will have to pay the cost of the ambulance. However, there are some exemptions from paying if you meet certain criteria. Find out more about state-based exemptions via the links below:

What happens after you get to the hospital?

It’s not just the ambulance fees you have to keep in mind. While public hospital healthcare (including emergency treatment) is free to all Australian citizens and most permanent residents, if you need further treatment after your initial admission including rehabilitation, specialist appointments or surgery, that’s when the costs (and potential waiting times) could quickly add up.

nib offers extra protection against the unexpected with the Accidental Injury Benefit. If you’re an nib member and you seek treatment within 72 hours of an accident at a hospital emergency department, or with a medical practitioner like a GP, you’ll receive benefits in-line with our best level of hospital cover for the following 90 days if you are then admitted to hospital4.

Considering emergency ambulance cover?

With nib, there’s no need to be caught out by the cost of an expensive ride. We believe health cover should be simple, smart and value for money. That's why nib offers unlimited emergency ambulance on all of our health covers5. Regardless of where you're from, the last thing you want to worry about in an emergency situation is the cost of your trip.

Get a quote online today or call 13 14 63 to speak with one of our health insurance experts. For nib members, you can view your current nib policy online or give our team a call on 13 16 42.

1TAS residents are covered under state ambulance schemes in TAS and when travelling in mainland Australia except NSW, SA or QLD.
2Average ambulance charge incurred by nib members between July 2019 and June 2020 (excluding TAS and QLD residents).
3Not available in all states and territories, check your state’s ambulance services website for further information.
4Excludes consult at an Emergency Department or with Medical Practitioner (e.g. GP). Accidental Injury Benefit criteria must be met for approval.
5Excludes TAS residents (except when travelling to some states on the mainland) & QLD residents. One-day waiting period applies.

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