Brokers may need to enlighten their clients about their health insurance coverage, as a new study revealed a misconception about ambulance cover that can leave them with a “nasty bill shock,” an expert said.
A finder.com.au survey of 2,085 Australians found that 30%, or 5.7 million people, mistakenly believe that ambulance costs are free and covered by Medicare when in fact, calling an ambulance can be a costly experience for those without a concession or health card.
The costs of ambulances or other emergency transportation are subsidised by the government in Tasmania and Queensland – not so in other states.
In Victoria, an emergency callout can cost as much as $1,776, plus a further $5.60 per kilometre. In SA, it costs $976 for an emergency, then $5.60/km. In WA, it's $976 for an emergency. In NT, the cost is $790 for an emergency, then $5.10/km.
Ambulance costs are much cheaper in NSW and ACT, where it costs $372 for an emergency, plus $3.35/km.
The survey found the younger generations to be the most confused about ambulance costs, with 47% of Generation Z believing it's covered by Medicare, compared to 33% of Generation Y and 25% of Generation X. Of the states, NSW residents are the most confused about ambulance costs, with 26% believing it’s free.
“Although some state governments do subsidise emergency callout costs, most don’t, and it can lead to some nasty bill shock in some cases,” said Bessie Hassan, insurance expert at finder.com.au.
Another finder.com.au study found that 8% of Australians opted for public transport rather than paying for an ambulance. A further 21% called an ambulance for a non-life threatening issue, potentially incurring an expensive bill.
“Most insurance providers will offer a form of ambulance cover, but much like differences between the states, this can vary significantly between insurers,” Hassan said. “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.”