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Frequently asked questions

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme.

More detailed information on the questions and answers in the headings can be found by clicking the link in the heading text.

What is the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme (PTSS)?

The Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme (PTSS) provides financial assistance to help patients get specialist treatment when the treatment is not available at their local hospital or health facility.

What are the principles for administering PTSS?

Where a specific situation is not covered in PTSS policy, the following principles will be used to guide decisions:

  • patient safety—the safety of patients is a key consideration, including ensuring clinically appropriate patient travel,
  • access—the scheme supports patient access to specialist health services,
  • subsidy—the scheme does not cover the full costs associated with travel and accommodation,
  • value for money—the scheme promotes the efficient use of public resources.

Is PTSS means tested?

No, the PTSS is available to all eligible patients.  Patients who do not have a recognised concession card must pay for the first four nights of accommodation in each financial year before they are eligible for the accommodation subsidy.

What subsidies are available through PTSS?

Travel and accommodation subsidies are available for eligible patients and approved escorts.

The PTSS is not intended to cover the full costs associated with accessing specialist medical services. Extra costs to patients may include parking, tolls, taxis, airport transfers and meals.

Why is GST not included in the subsidy payment when the patient pays for travel or accommodation?

GST is a tax on supplies for goods, services and other items received or purchased. When a registered business, such as Queensland Health, pays an expense that includes GST in the price, Queensland health can only claim the GST from the tax office if they are the recipients of the supply.  When Queensland Health books and pays the accommodation, the supply is being made to them and so the GST can be claimed from the tax office.

When the patient books their own accommodation and pays GST, the supply of the accommodation is being made to the patient. They are paying the GST and, not being registered, cannot claim the GST from the tax office.

As Queensland Health is unable to claim the GST paid by the patient when making their booking, the decision has been made not to reimburse GST in subsidy payments.

How are patients assessed for PTSS eligibility?

The patient’s local hospital or health facility will assess PTSS applications against the policy to decide eligibility.

The information provided by the patient and the clinician, will be used to decide what subsidies the patient is eligible for.

Are PTSS subsidy payments capped at a certain dollar amount per person or per year?

No. There are no limits to PTSS subsidy payments.  Eligible patients will receive PTSS subsidies as per PTSS policy for as long as medically needed.

Patients undergoing long-term treatment may be asked to give updated specialist referrals.

Are patients able to receive financial help from other sources as well as PTSS?

Patients who are eligible for PTSS, as well as financial help from other sources, such as Department of Veterans’ Affairs, WorkCover or third-party insurance, may still be eligible for PTSS. Partial payment of the PTSS subsidy may be approved if the alternative financial help does not include travel or accommodation costs of if the amount is less than the amount the patient would have received in PTSS subsidies.

Patients must declare any help from other sources during the application process. Patients who have received PTSS subsidy payments and subsequently receive payment from another source may, at the discretion of their local hospital or health facility, be required to repay all or part of any paid PTSS subsidies.

If a clinician makes a recommendation for an escort to travel with a patient, is an escort automatically approved?

Unless the patient meets the requirement for automatic escort approval, the patient’s local hospital or health facility will assess the need and eligibility for an escort as per PTSS policy.

The patient’s local hospital or health facility will assess the clinician’s recommendation and the request for an escort based on the patient’s application and the eligibility criteria as outlined in the PTSS policy.

Generally, patients are eligible for only one escort. Approval for more than one escort may be approved in special circumstances at the discretion of the patient’s local hospital or health facility.

Must escorts travel with the patient?

Yes, to be eligible for subsidy payment escorts must travel with the patient.

Separate travel may be approved if the patient has received emergency transport and prior approval for an escort was not possible, or if an escort was not required at the time of initial application and is subsequently approved to travel.

Approval for an escort must be obtained from the patient’s local hospital or health facility prior to the escort travelling.

Approval for an escort not to travel with the patient is at the discretion of the local hospital or health facility.

Can a patient have more than one approved escort?

Approval for more than one escort to travel with the patient is at the discretion of the patient’s local hospital or health facility – this includes more than one escort travelling with the patient or if an escort needs to be swapped during the patient’s stay.

Does an escort have to be the patient’s carer?

The role of an escort is to help the patient during their travel and treatment. The escort may help the patient in their treatment, be an active carer or help if the patient is impaired.

If the patient is under 18 years of age and a dependent child an escort is automatically approved.

Can patients apply for an escort if the clinician hasn’t made a recommendation for one?

Patients who need assistance when travelling or during treatment or recovery, can apply for an escort. Escorts are approved by the local hospital or health facility as per PTSS policy.

Clinical recommendations are taken into consideration when assessing the patient’s application for an escort.

Will an escort receive the same subsidy as the patient?

PTSS subsidy rates for travel and accommodation are the same for patients and escorts.

In most cases the escort will receive the same subsidies as the patient. Subsidies may not be the same when the patient stays in hospital overnight as an in-patient.

Patients and escorts will only receive one travel subsidy when traveling by private car.

If the patient has been approved for an escort in a previous application will they always receive approval for an escort?

Unless the patient is eligible for automatic escort approval, the requirement for an escort will be assessed for each application as per PTSS policy.

Patients receive an automatic approval for an escort when:

  • they are a minor (under 18 years of age and a dependent child),
  • the escort is the patient’s legal guardian and is needed to make decisions in relation to the patients’ healthcare,
  • the patient has a life-threatening condition or is requiring lifesaving treatment,
  • the patient needs assistance with basic requirements of life, including for frail or elderly patients, or those requiring oxygen or sedation,
  • the escort is required to participate in treatment or rehabilitation, for example, patients undergoing major surgery, such as cardiac surgery, organ transplants or renal dialysis may require a carer/escort to participate in their care while at home,
  • the patient has a physical or cognitive impairment, for example, brain injury, dementia or confusion or has visual impairment, mental illness or impaired mobility.

Does the patient’s escort have to be the same person each trip?

No, patients do not have to travel with the same escort each trip. So long as the patient’s need for an escort meets the eligibility criteria, approved patients can have a different escort for each trip.

Are patients able to travel with someone if they haven’t been approved for an escort?

Yes, but this person will not receive a PTSS subsidy payment. Eligible patients will still receive their approved subsidies.

Can patients apply for PTSS to travel to their local public hospital or health facility?

No, the PTSS provides subsidies for patients to access specialist medical services that are not available at their local public hospital or health facility.

Unless the patient has been referred for specialist medical treatment more than 50km from their closest public hospital or health facility they are not eligible for PTSS.

Can patients apply for PTSS is they have already travelled and received treatment?

Yes, this is called a retrospective application.

Patients who have not previously received PTSS or who required urgent treatment and did not have time to apply for PTSS, are able to submit one retrospective application for travel occurring within the last 12 months. This application can include travel for multiple trips.

Retrospective applications are assessed against the same criteria as PTSS applications submitted prior to travel.

A patient’s approved subsidy payment is based on their application and an assessment against PTSS policy, not the costs they incurred to travel to their appointment.

Patients who have travelled using a mode of transport different to the mode approved in their retrospective application, will receive a payment equal to the lesser amount. Any accommodation costs in addition to the amount approved in the application are at the patient’s expense, as with any costs for an escort if not approved.

Are patients able to receive PTSS for specialist medical treatment at a facility that is not closest to their local hospital or health facility?

Patients may be approved by their local hospital or health facility to attend a specialist medical treatment at a facility which is not the closest if:

  • The patient’s travel is a result of receiving emergency transportation.
  • The patient has previously been approved for subsidies and a closer service has since become available. In this situation, patients can receive assistance for one more visit to the originally approved specialist before needing to seek further approval from their local hospital or health facility.
  • Transport to the closest specialist service is not available or it is more cost effective to refer patients to another specialist.
  • There is a valid clinical reason to attend a different specialist. This may include timeliness of treatment at the nearest location. Approval from the approving local hospital or health facility prior to travel is required.

The patient has been selected for a Queensland Health initiative, such as a Wait list reduction program.

Are patients eligible for PTSS if their referral is for a second opinion or clinical trial?

Subsidies may be available to patients who have been referred to a specialist for a second opinion by another specialist. If a patient is seeking a second opinion without a clinical referral, any travel and accommodation costs are not covered by PTSS and are at the patient’s expense.

Patients participating in clinical trials or experimental procedures are not eligible for PTSS.

Are patients able to apply for PTSS for specialist appointments outside of Queensland?

Patients are able to apply for PTSS to attend an interstate specialist medical service, if the service is not available in Queensland. No overseas travel is covered by PTSS. The Australian Government Department of Health administers the Medical Treatment Overseas (MTO) program which provides financial assistance for Australians with life-threatening medical conditions to receive proven life-saving medical treatment overseas if effective treatment is not available in Australia. Further information is available at www.health.gov.au/.

Are non-Queensland residents able to apply for PTSS?

No. Only patients who are genuine Queensland residents are eligible for PTSS.

For the purpose of PTSS, a genuine Queensland resident must have a permanent Queensland residential address, or be a genuine vagrant residing in Queensland at the time of the referral.

Patients who do not have a permanent Queensland residence and are travelling for business or holidays (including FIFO workers and grey nomads) are not considered genuine Queensland residents.

All Australian states and territories have patient travel schemes. Patients should apply for patient travel assistance in the state or territory where they reside permanently. The links below provide information on other Australian patient travel schemes.

Are Queensland patients able to access PTSS if they are travelling interstate or overseas?

No, Queensland patients who are travelling interstate or overseas, including for work and holidays, are not eligible for PTSS. Eligible patients can only receive subsidies from the place they usually reside. Exceptions apply for patients who are transported for emergency treatment.

Patients travelling interstate or overseas should consider travel insurance.

Are patients eligible for PTSS if they are attending private specialist treatment?

Patients travelling to access private specialist services may be eligible for PTSS if the specialist treatment is not available within 50 kilometres of their closest public hospital or health facility. Approved subsidies will be calculated based on the closest facility with the treatment available.  All patients accessing private specialist treatment will be assessed for eligibility as per PTSS policy.

Can patients apply for travel and/or accommodation subsidies if they are transferred from their local hospital or health facility to another?

Patients discharged following inter-hospital transfer or emergency transport are eligible for PTSS assistance for their return journey home if they meet the eligibility criteria. The patient’s local public hospital or health facility is responsible for approving and paying subsidies, taking into consideration any recommendations from the treating specialist.

Escort subsidies will only be approved if the usual escort criteria are met.

Generally, patients are eligible for assistance to return to the place where they usually reside. At the discretion of the local hospital or health facility patients can be approved for travel back to the place from which the patient was transported, up to the value of travel to their usual place of residence. Subsidies are not available for travel to a third location.

How is the approved mode of transport determined?

The mode of transport approved by the local public hospital or health facility is determined by the information provided in the clinician’s recommendations and assessed against PTSS policy.

The mode of transport is determined by the most clinically appropriate and cost-effective mode of transport available. Modes of transport can include private motor vehicle (driving), bus, train, ferry or airplane. In some cases, the approved mode of transport may be different for the forward and return journeys.

Application assessments will consider the individual circumstances of the patient when determining the approved mode of transport for the travel subsidy. Advice from clinicians, allied health professionals, social workers and liaison officers, will be considered when assessing the patient’s application.

Does the travel subsidy cover all the patient’s travel costs?

The PTSS is not intended to cover the full costs associated with patients accessing specialist medical services. The PTSS travel subsidy does not cover:

  • Any additional costs resulting from a patient choosing to travel using a mode of transport different from what was approved,
  • Any GST paid by a patient when booking their own travel,
  • The cost of travelling to and from transport terminals when the distance is fewer than 50km from the closest public hospital or health facility,
  • The cost of travelling to and from medical appointments or accommodation, parking costs or the cost of tolls,
  • An additional travel subsidy for an escort when travelling by private motor vehicle with the patient,
  • The cost of meals or incidental expenses while travelling,
  • Excess baggage charges.

Does the travel subsidy include travel to and from transport terminals?

The cost of travelling to and from transport terminals is not covered by PTSS.

If the transport terminal is more than 50 kilometres from the patient’s local public hospital or health facility, they are eligible for assistance for that part of the journey.

How is the distance calculated for the private motor vehicle subsidy?

The private motor vehicle mileage subsidy is calculated at 30 cents per kilometre from the street address of the patient’s local public hospital or health facility, to the street address of the closest public treatment facility. This is determined by the distance calculator from Google Maps or Whereis.com, using the fastest route without tolls.

Will patients receive a travel subsidy if they use a mode of transport different from what was approved?

Yes, patients who choose a mode of transport different from what was approved by their local hospital or health facility will receive the travel subsidy equivalent to the approved mode of transport.

Who books and pays for commercial travel via ferry, bus, train or airplane?

Where a ticket can be prepaid, most hospital and health facilities will book and pay for the patient’s travel.

Additionally, patients can book their own travel and submit tax invoices to claim a subsidy after they have travelled. Any GST paid by the patient is not included in subsidy payments.

Is there a maximum distance or amount of time patients are expected to travel in one day before they receive an accommodation subsidy?

Patients and escorts approved for private motor vehicle subsidies needing to travel more than 600 kilometres or eight hours in one day, can apply for the accommodation subsidy of up to $60 per night (excluding GST) while travelling.

Patients with an early or late appointment time may also be eligible for the accommodation subsidy.

What options are available for patients who can’t or don’t want to travel to their appointment?

Patients who can’t or don’t want to travel should seek advice on alternative options from their medical practitioner or specialist. Patients should also ask if their specialist treatment is available through Telehealth.

What is Telehealth?

Telehealth is the delivery of health services and information using live audio and/or video to connect patients and clinicians for consultative and educational purposes.

Telehealth services include the secure electronic transfer of digital images, video, audio and clinical data, including but not limited to x-rays, CTs and MRIs from one location to another. Telehealth services and equipment reduce the need for patients to travel to access health services.

Patients should ask their treating clinician about the suitability of Telehealth.

What concession cards are valid for the PTSS accommodation subsidy concession?

Patients must pay for the first four nights of accommodation in a financial year, before being eligible for the accommodation subsidy, unless they hold one of the following valid concession cards or are under 18 years of age:

  • Pensioner concession cards
  • Centrelink Health Care Card
  • Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
  • Department of Veteran Affairs Health Card

For PTSS, concession cards only apply to the patient. Where the escort has a concession card and the patient doesn’t, neither are eligible for a concession.

Are all patients able to apply for the accommodation subsidy?

Patients who are medically required to be away from home, or who cannot reasonably complete their return journey home in one day, are eligible for the accommodation subsidy. Patients with an early or late appointment time may also be eligible for the accommodation subsidy.

Can the patient choose what accommodation they stay in?

Patients can choose to stay in commercial accommodation or with family and/or friends. Eligible patients and approved escorts can receive up to $60 per night while staying in commercial accommodation or $10 per night while staying with family and/or friends.

If the patient wants to book their own accommodation they should discuss this with their local hospital or health facility. Patients should check to see if their local hospital or health facility has a list of accommodation providers and if the patient’s accommodation subsidy can be paid directly to the provider.

Patients are required to pay any costs in addition to their approved subsidy amount.

Can patients apply for the accommodation subsidy if their timeframes for accommodation is unknown or ongoing?

Eligible patients will receive an accommodation subsidy for as long as they are clinically required to be away from home, as certified by the treating specialist.

If the end date for accommodation is not known, or the need for accommodation is ongoing, the patient’s local hospital or health facility may conduct a review to determine if subsidies are still required, for example, see if the specialist service has become available locally or if an escort is still required.

Are patients and escorts eligible for an accommodation subsidy while the patient is an in-patient?

Patients will not receive an accommodation subsidy for any period where they are in hospital overnight as an in-patient. Approved escorts may still be eligible for their accommodation subsidy during that time.

Does the patient’s accommodation have to be in the same town or city as their specialist appointment?

Patients staying in commercial accommodation or with family or friends do not have to stay in the same town as their specialist appointment. If the patient is approved for accommodation and provides evidence they attended their specialist appointment, they will receive their private accommodation subsidy.

What if the patient needs to stay in accommodation for longer than approved?

The PTSS accommodation subsidy financially supports patients for accommodation costs for as long as they are medically required to be away from home (excluding any time as an in-patient). If the patient is medically required to stay in accommodation for longer than approved in the original application, the patient should contact their local travel office to arrange further accommodation approval. The patient will need to give evidence of the clinical recommendation to stay longer.

The patient will not need a new PTSS application if they are continuing to access the same specialist health service.

Patients with ongoing medical conditions that require long-term treatment (more than three months), may be asked to seek alternative long-term accommodation such as renting a property.

What if the patient misses their travel or accommodation booking?

It is the responsibility of the patient to advise their local hospital or health facility of any changes to their travel plans or appointment details. If adequate notice (i.e. within 24 hours) is not provided and/or the patient misses their travel/accommodation booking without good reason, future subsidies may be affected.

What is classified as commercial accommodation?

Commercial accommodation includes hotels, motels, caravan parks, apartments, bed and breakfasts, rental arrangements, flats or accommodation facilities associated with non-government organisations, such as the Cancer Council or Leukaemia Foundation. Commercial accommodation providers must be registered for GST and have an ABN to receive PTSS subsidy payment direct.

Is there a time limit to claiming PTSS?

Patients who have been approved for PTSS prior to travelling to their specialist appointment must submit their completed claims to their local hospital or health facility within 12months from the first date of travel for that specialist medical referral.

How are patients notified of the outcome of their application?

Hospitals and health facilities should assess applications within 5 working days of receiving the patient’s completed application.

If the patient’s application is not approved they will be notified in writing and given the reason for non-approval. Notification of outcome usually occurs within a week of the application being received.

Eligible patients will be contacted by the local hospital or health facility regarding their travel arrangements.

How long does it take for patients to receive their subsidy payment?

Patients should receive their subsidy payment within 30 working days of submitting all necessary paperwork, including their signed certification form and any required tax invoices to their local hospital or health facility.

Are patients able to appeal the outcome of their application?

Yes, patients can appeal the outcome of their application if they don't agree with the final decision.

Patients should lodge the appeal at their local hospital or health facility within 30 calendar days of receiving notification of the outcome. Appeals lodged after this time are accepted at the discretion of the local hospital or health facility.

During the appeals process, patients are responsible for providing any additional information to support their appeal. This information will be considered along with their original application and assessed using the same criteria.

Appeals should be assessed within five working days from the date of lodgement, but may take longer if additional information is required.

How long does it take to assess applications?

Applications should be assessed by the local hospital and health facility within 5 working days of receiving the patient’s application.

Applications may take longer to assess if necessary information has not been provided.

What services are covered by allied health?

Allied health services covered under PTSS include, but are not limited to audiology, clinical psychology, nutrition/dietetics, occupational therapy, orthotics, prosthetics, physiotherapy, podiatry, social work and speech pathology

What allied health services are eligible for PTSS?

Allied health services considered an essential component of a specialist medical service are eligible for PTSS if all other eligibility criteria are met. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Visiting an ocularist following eye removal
  • Visiting a prosthetic specialist following limb amputation.
  • Audiology services related to cochlear implant.

Occupational therapy for burns scar management.

What dental services are eligible under the patient travel subsidy scheme?

Dental services for the treatment of gross deformity including congenital abnormalities of the skull and facial structures (e.g., cleft lip and palate); syndromes of cranio-facial distortion; and surgical orthodontic cases where facial disfigurement is such that surgery is required, are eligible under the Scheme.

General dental services are not.

Is organ donation covered by PTSS?

Yes.

Patients who are the recipient of an organ donation are eligible to receive travel and accommodation subsidies from their local hospital and health facility

Patients who are donating an organ are eligible for travel and accommodation subsidies from the hospital or health facility where the treatment will occur.