More than 5 million Aussies wrongly think ambulances are free under Medicare, when some states can actually charge thousands for an emergency callout.
While anyone living in Queensland or Tasmania isn’t required to pay for ambulance transport at home, everyone else in Australia, other than those in receipt of health care or pensioner concession cards, has to be covered by insurance for the emergency transport or risk a hefty fee.
Now, a new survey of 2,085 people by finder.com.au has found almost one in three Aussies – the equivalent of 5.7 million people – aren’t aware of how much an ambulance could cost them and believe they’re free under Medicare.
However, a callout in Victoria can actually cost as much as $1,776, with patients who live further away then facing a further $5.60 per kilometre. South Australia also comes with huge costs, with patients having to pay $976 for an emergency, then $5.60 per kilometre, the survey claimed.
Meanwhile, those living in NSW also face bills for the service, (around $372 for an emergency, plus $3.35 per kilometre), but the survey found it’s the most confused state in the country when it comes to costs, with over one in four believing it’s free.
There’s a clear generational divide in the results, as 47 per cent of Generation Z (anyone born between the mid-1990s to early 2000s) said they believed it’s free under Medicare, along with 33 per cent of Generation Y. That’s in comparison to only 25 per cent of Generation X, with more no doubt having experienced emergency situations in their lifetime.
“Although some state governments do subsidise emergency callout costs, most don’t, and it can lead to some nasty bill shock in some cases,” Finder’s insurance expert Bessie Hassan said.
“The most important thing is that Australians are getting the medical help they need. Where bills can’t be paid, each state’s revenue office should have measures put in place to provide financial assistance or allow bills to be paid in instalments.”
People living in WA reportedly face bills of $967 for an emergency, while those in the Northern Territory could pay $790 for an emergency, plus $5.10 per kilometre.
While many Aussies may be unaware of the costs, some of those that are have been put off paying at all – with one in 10 choosing to catch public transport to avoid a hefty bill. In comparison, another 21 per cent have gone the other way and incurred a bill after calling an ambulance over a non-life threatening issue.
“Most insurance providers will offer a form of Ambulance cover but much like differences between the states, this can vary significantly between insurers,” Hassan added. “If you aren’t sure whether you are covered by your private health policy, it is usually listed under extras or sometimes as a standalone policy. It might also specify whether it is for emergency only or all ambulance use.”