CHOICE membership

Ambulance included with all NSW hospital policies?

The Choice article on cheap health cover to avoid tax suggests that all NSW plans include ambulance cover:

Does not provide any cover in private hospital, but covers a range of services in public hospital and provides emergency ambulance cover (as do all ACT/NSW hospital policies).

It says this in the context of the Frank Basics Plus plan. But everything on the Frank website suggests that this plan does NOT include ambulance cover. Is the article wrong, or am I misunderstanding something?

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I cannot speak about Frank, but have learnt many policies (state dependent sometimes) do not explicitly cover ambulance but one can claim ambulance membership as a benefit.

Have membership, get reimbursed for it, ‘good to go’. Don’t have membership and need service and it is out of your pocket.

Thus the answer is not always clear because a particular policy may or may not pay for ambulance membership even if ambulance service per se is or is not covered.

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For background Choice has the following advice.

Specific to NSW, ambulance cover is only available through a health insurance policy. Choice noted both BUPA and Medibank offer Ambulance only policies for NSW if you are looking for options.

The following product focused guide provides a very easy to follow summary for all states. Queenslanders have the best outcome. Why the other states can’t meet the same standard, seems rather petty. Or should the Federal Govt cover all under Medicare party politics put aside? Something that should be universal for emergency transport and treatment.

Note:
The separate Choice review of the cheapest health cover said this about Frank.
The purpose of the review by Choice - “The cheapest basic health insurance policies to save on tax.”

Cover : Does not provide any cover in private hospital, but covers a range of services in public hospital and provides emergency ambulance cover (as do all ACT/NSW hospital policies.

Risks : You have to serve public hospital waiting lists and may receive the same treatment as public patients.

Recommended for health cover? No

@UtaMihm may be able to clarify further.

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If you aren’t covered by a health fund (they do have Ambulance Cover Only policies with some funds it seems) or by one of the circumstances in the the following lists then you have to pay a fee to get coverage. Those who do not need cover are as found in the first list from NSW Govt Website, or as a holder of one of the Govt Concession Cards listed in the second list:

"NSW Ambulance services are provided at no cost to you if you are covered by:

  • a private health fund
  • a school or group contribution
  • a workers compensation, motor accident or third party insurance claim. However, workers compensation provider will be charged with full rates
  • The Lifetime Care and Support Authority.
  • a workers compensation, motor accident or third party insurance claim. However, contracted services, worker compensation patients are required to pay the full fee for the service provided by NSW Ambulance with a call out fee of $786 plus an additional charge of $6.93 per kilometer (or part thereof)."

"Due to the Ambulance NSW levy scheme, if you have hospital cover, you’re automatically covered for emergency transportation within New South Wales. If you don’t have hospital cover, you may need to purchase ambulance cover (either as a standalone policy or as part of an extras policy) from a private health fund. Pensioner and concession cardholders can access most ambulance services for free, as can students covered by a school or group contribution. Those eligible for free ambulance services include people who hold a:

  • Health Care Card
  • Pensioner Concession Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card (find out more at the Dept of Human Services)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Repatriation Health Card, also known as a Gold Card (excluding non-emergency ambulance services)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs Repatriation Health Card, also known as a White Card (only for services relating to a specific condition that is funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs)"

Ambulance only policies for NSW (list is from finder.com.au so not sure as to completeness & the links take you to finder’s site) are as follows:

Ambulance only cover options

The following health funds offer ambulance cover, prices are based on a single in Sydney (checked in January 2021):

Medibank Medibank Ambulance Cover $64.20
NIB Ambulance Only Cover $54.00
Peoplecare Ambulance Only $53.40
Bupa Emergency Only Ambulance cover $43.60
HCF Ambulance Only $57.55
Nurses & Midwives Health Emergency Ambulance Only $62.95
HBF Urgent Ambulance $70.10
Hunter Health Insurance Ambulance Only Cover $54.55
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Going a bit OT here but I remember when I used to pay directly into the Ambulance Fund and it had zero to do with my health insurance. I hated that the two services became linked in some way. The old system was better. You could get ambulance without needing to fork out hundreds each year for health insurance.

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FWIW Victoria costs $48.35 p.a. for a single ambulance membership, $96.70 for a family including dependents. I note most of the NSW policies cost more. Since Bupa uses preferred providers I expected some caveats, and there are a few.

For their general policies: https://www.bupa.com.au/health-insurance/understanding-your-health-cover/your-ambulance-cover

For their ambulance only policies: https://www.bupa.com.au/health-insurance/ambulance-cover

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Thanks everyone.

I wasn’t looking for ambulance-only cover, but rather a cheap hospital plan, to avoid the Medicare Levy, with ambulance cover being a minimum requirement.

So the Choice article was perfect for me, but that line about all NSW hospitals having ambulance threw me for a loop, because it seems contrary to what I had seen. Hoping to get confirmation that either there is indeed some minimum ambulance with all policies, or the statement is wrong and can be updated to avoid confusing others.

It has been interesting to learn that ambulance policies are relatively cheap though. So separate hospital and ambulance may actually be a good option.

Based on the information outlined here:

NSW Ambulance services are also provided at no cost to
you if:
• You are covered by a private health fund or have
ambulance only cover

It seems like potentially anyone who has a hospital policy gets free ambulance inside NSW, but you need a policy that specifically covers ambulance to get it outside NSW. Does that seem right?

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Yes, since each state does its own thing its own way. What applies in NSW does not apply in Vic as an example, and vice versa.

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This was from the NSW Govt about the cost of Ambulance coverage:

It is very clear that the Levy Scheme applies to Private Health Hospital policies and in the FAQ linked just above this sentence the following quote is quite explicit in that explanation:

"

Private Health Fund - Hospital Cover

Private health funds in NSW pay an “ambulance levy” are required to pay a levy to the NSW Government to cover the costs of ambulance services used by their members. Members of such funds are exempt from paying ambulance fees. If you have or are considering this form of insurance you are advised to check with your health fund to confirm exactly what coverage is provided.

Private Health Fund - Ambulance Only Cover

The major private health funds offer “ambulance only” products. The cost of purchasing this type of product varies and may not necessarily cover the costs of the provision of all ambulance services. You should check with your health fund to confirm exactly what coverage is provided."

An example of what the Fund covers however is variable, as an example BUPA has these rules:

"

Understanding your cover

  1. All Bupa Hospital and most Extras covers include emergency ambulance services, usually capped at one (for singles) or two (for couples/families) trips or attendances per year.

  2. An “emergency” is defined as an unplanned event where a patient’s life may be at risk and they need medical treatment immediately. You can read our Fund bupa.com.au/fundrules for more details about what is classified as an emergency.

  3. Emergency transport must be by a Bupa Recognised Ambulance Provider in that State/Territory. These include ACT Ambulance Service, Ambulance Service of NSW, Ambulance Queensland Ambulance Service, South Australia Ambulance Service, St John Ambulance NT, St John Ambulance Service WA, Ambulance Service Tasmanian.

  4. The following “non-emergency” transport is not included in your Hospital or Extras cover:

  • Transportation from a hospital to your home
  • From a hospital to a nursing home
  • From a hospital to another hospital where the customer has been admitted to the transferring (first) hospital. Most of the time this is when a hospital does not have the facilities to treat you, so the first admitting hospital generally covers this. If you’re unsure, you can check with your hospital.
  • From the person’s home, a nursing home or hospital for ongoing medical treatment, (for example, chemotherapy or dialysis)."

So BUPA policies only cover you for 1 emergency travel a year if single or 2 trips if a couple…not very inspiring coverage.

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Thanks all for providing this very helpful feedback.

Yes @pwatts you are absolutely right, if you buy a cheap health policy that does not provide ambulance cover but your are a NSW resident you will still be covered for emergence only ambulance in NSW.

However, if you were to travel to Victoria, for example, and need an ambulance you would not be covered.

Your options are - if you also require extras insurance, choose one that includes ambulance cover or buy an ambulance only plan from a health insurer.

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