A first point of interest is that Medicare does not cover the provision of ambulance services and whether you may have to pay for ambulance service depends in which state you reside. Also, depending on the ambulance policy of your state or territory, residents may need to take out cover with their health fund or ambulance provider for services within their resident state. If you hold a Pensioner’s Concession Card check if you are exempt from payment of the ambulance levy or if there is a discount available. For example, Department of Veterans Affairs Gold Card Holders are covered for state ambulance services in every state by the Department.
Another point to be mindful of is the definition of or the distinction between ‘emergency’ and ‘non-emergency’ ambulance transport. When travelling interstate ‘non-emergency transport’ refers to pre-booked services such as transfer of the patient from one hospital to another. Some private health funds may levy a co-payment for things such as ‘non-emergency’ transport.
It may be that the ambulance cover will cover you for transport to the nearest hospital where the required treatment is available, but not back to your state of residence unless a doctor certifies this is necessary. In such cases, health insurance/ambulance cover may be required if you want to cover all possible eventualities.
It can all be confusing, as your private health fund may cover you for ‘emergency’ transport within your state but not in another state. Also, ‘non-emergency’ transport may not be covered when you travel interstate.
Individuals with ambulance cover do not need to pay the costs of emergency ambulance services if they need to be transported to a hospital or if they need to be treated at the scene during an emergency and later transported to a hospital.
These emergency transportation situations cover incidents such as heart attacks or strokes, but not transfers between hospitals or transportation for routine medical treatment as an admitted patient.
Prior to travelling interstate it is best to check that the state or territory you are to travel to has reciprocal arrangements for ambulance cover with your home state or territory. It may be necessary to take out ambulance cover through a private health fund. Make sure you get written confirmation of the cover and check whether there is any maximum limit to the ambulance cover provided by the health fund.
International visitors should take out health insurance. Where overseas visitors current travel insurance does not have adequate medical cover there are some approved health funds in Australia, such as MBF or Bupa who provide Overseas Visitors’ Cover which includes emergency ambulance cover.
Am I Covered For Ambulance Service When I travel Interstate ?
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State/Territory Residents And Ambulance Cover
Ambulance schemes can vary depending on the state or territory of residence.
NSW and ACT – In NSW and the ACT, individuals are fully covered for ambulance services if they contribute to a Hospital cover. Those who have only extras cover ie, without hospital cover, may have limited cover for emergency transportation. In the ACT, Health Care Concession Card (HCC) and Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) holders are entitled to free emergency ambulance services and in NSW, HCC, PCC and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders are entitled to free ambulance transport services.
TAS – Tasmanian residents do not need to pay for ambulance cover, as Ambulance Tasmania offers a free service to the state’s residents. Exceptions may apply in motor vehicle or workplace accidents where the insurance policies of those involved cover the costs.
QLD – Prior to 1 July 2011, Queenslanders paid the Community Ambulance Cover Levy, which was added to electricity bills. From 1 July 2011, every Queensland resident has access to free ambulance cover, and this applies even if they are temporarily outside their home state.
VIC, SA, NT & WA – Residents of these regions can obtain emergency ambulance coverage under Hospital and/or Extras cover. In VIC, Pensioner Concession Card and Healthcare Card holders are entitled to free ambulance transport services. In WA, aged pensioners are entitled to free ambulance services for all emergency ambulance services and non-urgent ambulance services that are deemed to be medically necessary. All other senior citizens over the age of 65 pay only 50% of the normal cost of both emergency and urgent ambulance transport.
Disclaimer: As terms and conditions may change in the states or territories, you should make your own enquiry with your ambulance provider or private health fund to satisfy yourself that you and your family are covered whilst travelling nationwide.
Check also whether you are covered for air (aero medical) ambulance in the case of an ‘emergency’ and even for ‘non-emergency’ as there may be a difference between being covered for ambulance transport by road or by air.
Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS)
The RFDS is a not-for-profit service that provides aero medical and health care services to people who travel, live and work in remote and regional Australia.
Their website provides excellent information on trip preparation, snake bites and what to do in an emergency. They recommend that travellers and 4WD tourists to remote areas investigate obtaining and using a HF Radio. See article on HF Radios. Contact numbers and radio frequencies are available on their website. Donations are welcomed.
· Make sure your take an adequate First Aid kit
· Complete a first aid and/or CPR course
· Obtain and maintain a fire extinguisher
· Keep a list of emergency numbers
· Make sure you have a device such as an PLB, HF radio, mobile telephone or satellite telephone to be able to make contact in an emergency.