The surprising cost of calling an ambulance in your state
Being rushed to hospital is never fun. Neither is the hefty bill you'll usually receive for the service. Despite what some people think, Medicare won't cover your ambulance costs. Without private health cover, this can potentially leave you hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket.
While Queensland and Tasmania offer free ambulance trips for residents, Aussies living in other states will need to pay for the service. Some states and territories reduce or eliminate costs for holders of appropriate pension or concession cards, so it's worth checking what entitlements you're eligible for.
Below are the most expensive states to order an ambulance.
Victorians will pay more for an ambulance ride than anywhere else in Australia. There, an emergency call-out will set you back $1265 in metropolitan areas like Melbourne or $1866 in regional and rural areas.
But there's one saving grace for Victorian residents. Unlike many other states, they won't be charged an extra fee per kilometre travelled. This is welcome news for those living in remote areas.
Ambulance call-out fees are only marginally cheaper in South Australia. You'll be charged a $1025 call-out fee, plus an extra $5.90 per kilometre travelled. On the other hand, if you only need on-the-spot treatment and aren't required to go to hospital, your bill will drop to just $229.
Residents also have the option to sign up for subscription ambulance cover, offered by the South Australian Ambulance Service. This will set you back around $90 per year for individual cover or $100 if you also want interstate cover.
Ambulance costs in Western Australia can vary depending on whether you live in a regional or metropolitan area. For those living in major hubs like Perth, an ambulance call-out fee will set you back $986 for emergency care or $530 for non-urgent care.
In regional areas of WA, ambulance services are run by St John Ambulance sub-centres. A subscription to the service will cost you around $75 per year.
Australian Capital Territory
Despite being the smallest state or territory in Australia, ambulance fees are fairly expensive there. You'll be charged $982 for a call-out, plus a whopping $13 per kilometre travelled outside of the ACT (which isn't all that unlikely considering the small size of the area).
If you only need on-the-spot treatment and don't go to hospital, you'll still be stung with a $681 bill.
Residents of the Northern Territory are charged less for ambulance services compared to other states. If you need to go to hospital, a call-out fee will cost you $790. The first 10 kilometres are free, after which time you'll be charged $5.10 per kilometre.
Similar to WA, NT residents can sign up to a St John Ambulance subscription service. This will cost $106 annually and you'll be fully covered for any trips you end up taking throughout the year.
New South Wales
Prices are surprisingly cheap in New South Wales, all thanks to the state government. There, the government subsidises ambulance costs by 49%, meaning you'll be charged just $392 for a call-out and $3.54 per kilometre travelled.
On the other hand, non-NSW residents who need to call an ambulance won't be covered by the subsidy. If you're visiting from interstate and need to go to hospital, you'll be charged a call-out fee of $768, along with an extra $6.93 per kilometre travelled. Despite the increased charges, non-residents can still reap the benefit of cheaper fees than most other states.
Types of ambulance cover
With the potential to pay big bucks for a call-out, it can be worth protecting yourself (and your bank account) with ambulance cover. Some health insurance policies include ambulance cover as part of their package, but you can also purchase it as a standalone policy.
Depending on the type of cover you take out, you can get covered for both emergency and non-emergency. Emergency ambulance is included in:
Hospital: This costs more because it includes a wide range of services required in an emergency (including ambulance).
Extras: This covers procedures outside of the hospital, like dental or optical. In most cases, it also includes ambulance cover.
Ambulance only: This typically includes comprehensive cover for ambulance services across Australia and is cheaper than a hospital or extras policy.
State subscription: Residents of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory can sign up to a state subscription service for an annual fee.
Sophie Walsh is an insurance expert at Finder
Get stories like this in our newsletters.