PANICKY or pushy Australians risk being slugged with huge bills if they call an ambulance when not necessary, new research has found.
A finder.com.au survey of more than 2000 Australians revealed that one in five had called an ambulance in a non-life threatening situation. Of these, 21 per cent said they could have driven themselves to a hospital or visited a GP instead, while 4 per cent admitted they simply wanted to skip hospital wait queues.
However, Medicare does not cover ambulance fees, even though 25 per cent of Australians think it does. Queensland and Tasmania have emergency transport covered by the government, while Northern Territory residents are covered if they subscribe to St John Ambulance services. In New South Wales however, a patient could pay anywhere from $293 for a road ambulance, non-emergency call-out, right up to a maximum of $6095, based on variable per-kilometre rates, if they don’t have ambulance cover through private health insurance. The other states also range from a few hundred dollars, into the thousands, depending on the type of emergency and what is required.
Finder.com.au spokeswoman Bessie Hassan said those looking to skip emergency waiting lines may be paying money for nothing.
“It’s not true that you’ll skip the emergency department queue,” Ms Hassan said. “Once you arrive at the hospital, each case is assessed depending on severity and prioritised accordingly.”
Statistics from NSW indicated that emergency calls were received by operators on average every 28 seconds, but just 10 per cent of calls were for patients with life-threatening conditions.
Queenslanders were most likely to call an ambulance when not needed, with 24 per cent calling triple-0 for a non-life threatening event. Western Australians were the least likely to call, with just 2 per cent doing so to skip waiting queues.
Ms Hassan advised that health insurance customers check their policies now to ensure they are covered for emergency transport, so they can make an informed, rational decision in times of illness.
Originally published as Aussies hit with ambulance bill shock