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Estimates: Questions about ambulance fees for non-residents in Qld

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Friday 30 July 2021, I asked how many people had been billed for ambulance fees in Queensland. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: I very much appreciate you all being here today. My electorate is home to heaps of international students—some of whom are still stuck here with no access to Medicare or ambulance cover since nonresidents and international visitors have to pay to call the ambulance. Commissioner Bowles, how many people were billed for getting an ambulance in the 2020-21 financial year and do you know the total amount that was billed for those services?

Commissioner Bowles: All Queensland residents have universal cover. I get that. If you are travelling here you would normally have travel insurance, and people would then send the account on to their insurer. As to the exact number of people we bill, you are talking probably thousands. I am not even sure I could get an exact number, but I probably could. I would need to talk to the finance guy, who will probably send me something through within a few minutes, I would imagine. It is a case of ‘how long is a bit of string?’ If you go back to last year, during the COVID period, our billing numbers were right down because there was no international travel. I do get that there are always travellers who come here who are not covered under universal ambulance services. Some of our neighbouring states have subscription schemes for people who are residents within this state. I do not think we should ever underestimate what a great system we have here in Queensland for universal ambulance cover. If we go back in time, in 1999 it was the free pensioners. In my time, as far as patient care initiatives go, I think that is probably one of the best initiatives I have ever seen. Instead of sitting at home and wondering if you could call an ambulance or not, you were able to. Also, in about 2004 I think it was, universal ambulance cover came in for all Queensland residents.

Mr BERKMAN: Just to clarify, is that something that you can come back to later in the session or take on notice if you cannot get the figures?

Commissioner Bowles: How many people have we billed?

Mr BERKMAN: That is right.

Commissioner Bowles: From overseas?

Mr BERKMAN: Yes. How many people were billed for getting an ambulance and what was the total amount? Is that something to be taken on notice or we can come back to it later. I am interested also in how many people have paid fees and how many people have been referred to SPER if that is something you could access. I would very much appreciate it if that could be taken on notice if we are unable to get the information before the end of the session. Can the minister take that one on notice?

Commissioner Bowles: I would imagine we would be able to get the information by the end of the session.

Mrs D’ATH: I am happy to take that on notice. I will note that if you are particularly interested in international students, they cannot get a visa to come here unless they have health insurance, which would cover that. Most importantly, our ambulance turns up and they treat people and they worry about the bill later. They look after people.

Mr BERKMAN: I appreciate you taking that on notice.

Commissioner Bowles: Just to update, I can give you the dollar amount now. The dollar amount is $5,348,000 that we billed to people interstate and overseas. It is roughly about $1,300 an incident. If you divide $5,348,000 by $1,300, that will give you the number.

Mr BERKMAN: Is the remainder of the question to be taken on notice? Can I clarify that before handing over to the member for South Brisbane?

Mrs D’ATH: If I can clarify, that question was: how many were referred to SPER?

Mr BERKMAN: That is right. How many of those people have paid fees and how many were referred to

SPER? Mrs D’ATH: We will seek to get that information for you. 

Later in the session, the Minister said the following:

Mrs D’ATH: In terms of the question from the member for Maiwar in relation to interstate and international debt recovery numbers for ambulance fees, I understand that we cannot get that data. We do not have that data broken down. The information we provided to the member for Maiwar we hope is helpful for his question, but we cannot give the breakdown of the debt recovery numbers available.

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