The Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme (VPTAS) subsidises travel and accommodation costs incurred by rural Victorians and an approved escort(s) who have no option but to travel more than 100 kilometres one way or an average of 500 kilometres a week for one or more weeks to receive approved medical specialist services or specialist dental treatment.
What is the VPTAS process?
People who wish to receive VPTAS assistance need to take the following steps:
- Check you are eligible.
- Find out what assistance is available.
- Find out who can be an approved patient escort.
- Fill in the VPTAS claim form.
- Have the VPTAS claim form completed by an approved medical specialist.
- Send the VPTAS form and required receipts to the VPTAS office.
Eligibility for VPTAS
The VPTAS guidelines provide details on eligibility. In summary, to be eligible for VPTAS patients must:
- be a Victorian resident
- live in a Department of Health & Human Services designated rural health region
- be receiving specialist medical treatment from a medical practitioner registered with Medicare Australia and recognised as a specialist in a particular specialty under the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cwlth) as per Schedule 4 of the Health Insurance Regulations 1975
- need to travel more than 100 kilometres one way or an average of 500 kilometres a week for one or more weeks (travel distances can be determined using the Google® maps Get Directions function).
People are not eligible for VPTAS if they:
- participate in clinical trials or experimental treatments that are medical research studies that aim to find a better way to manage a particular disease
- live in states or territories other than Victoria (unless they are a living organ donor to a Victorian patient)
- are away from their permanent place of residence when the treatment episode begins, such as when on holidays or while visiting friends or family either within Victoria or interstate
- are undertaking a journey to or from outside Australia for medical treatment
- are accessing allied health (for example, audiology, physiotherapy, podiatry, speech therapy)
- are accessing general practitioner (GP) services
- are eligible to claim assistance under another state or territory or from a registered benefit organisation including the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
- were injured in a motor vehicle accident and are covered by the Transport Accident Commission
- were injured at work and are covered by WorkSafe
- have received or claimed by way of compensation, damages or other payment in respect to the illness or injury being treated.
Pay the first $100 each treatment year
People receiving VPTAS assistance pay the first $100 each treatment year for their travel and accommodation, except for primary card holders of a Pensioner Concession Card or Health Care Card. After the initial payment VPTAS covers all travel and accommodation costs for the remainder of the treatment year. A treatment year starts from the date of the first appointment with a specialist.
People who are eligible for travel support will receive:
- 20 cents per kilometre (21 cents per kilometre for travel after 1 July 2017) if a private car is used
- full economy-class fare reimbursements for public transport
- air travel reimbursement - only if the journey exceeds 350 kilometres one way and a commercial flight is used
- taxi travel reimbursement - only to or from the nearest public transport when there are no other transport options.
Only the direct route to and from the person's home address is covered. Any other travel is not included. Google® maps Get Directions is used to determine the total eligible travel distance.
Travelling by public transport
People who are travelling by public transport and using a myki card should register their myki with Public Transport Victoria. They can access their travel history online and print a tax invoice statement of travel, which can be included with their VPTAS claim form.
Travel is subsidised to the nearest specialist
The person's GP is expected to provide a referral to the closest specialist available. If they choose to travel to a different specialist, the subsidies will be worked out as if they were seeing the closest specialist.
Applicants may be able to receive accommodation assistance up to a maximum of $41.00 per night, plus GST ($45.10 including GST). For travel after 1 July 2017 accommodation assistance will be a maximum of $45.00 per night ($49.50 including GST). This may be available to the applicant and their approved escort if:
- they stay in commercial accommodation - that is, any accommodation that is registered as a business and has an Australian Business Number (ABN)
- the specialist completes the VPTAS claim form stating the number of nights of accommodation required
- the specialist approves that partner or carer can accompany the applicant (they must be 18 years of age or older).
Who can be an approved patient escort?
When a patient is eligible for VPTAS, an approved patient escort is responsible for the patient’s transport and accommodation needs during treatment. Only one escort per patient is eligible for assistance, unless the patient is under the age of 18 years.
Children may be entitled to two escorts
A patient who is a newborn infant (up to six months of age) is entitled to two escorts. Patients over six months of age and under the age of 18 years are entitled to up to two escorts (parents, guardians or family members) when the patient requires treatment or admission to a hospital over two or more days. An approved escort must:
- be capable of providing assistance to the patient and responsible for the patient’s travel and accommodation requirements
- be 18 years of age or older
- be deemed necessary by the approved medical specialist (see Section C of the VPTAS claim form)
- accompany the patient while travelling for the forward or return journey or both.
When the escort does not stay with the patient
Where an approved escort does not stay while the patient is receiving treatment but is required to transport the patient to or from home, they may be entitled to up to two return journeys when the patient is hospitalised. This also includes an accommodation subsidy for nights an escort stays in commercial accommodation after transporting a patient to the treatment location and nights in commercial accommodation prior to taking the patient home. Any journeys in the middle of a treatment episode where the escort returns home on one or more occasions are not eligible for VPTAS assistance.
Fill in the claim form
The claim form may be downloaded from this webpage. It is also available from many doctors’ clinics, rural and metropolitan hospitals and rural health regional offices.
The VPTAS claim form must be completed by an approved medical specialist
Section C of the VPTAS claim form is to be filled out by an approved medical specialist or an authorised officer on their behalf.
Who is an approved medical specialist?
An approved medical specialist is a medical practitioner registered with Medicare Australia and recognised as a specialist in a particular speciality under the Health Insurance Act 1973
(Cwlth) as per Schedule 4 of the Health Insurance Regulations 1975. This includes:
- a registered medical practitioner providing specialist services in a hospital under the supervision of an approved medical specialist
- a registered dental practitioner providing specialist dental services of an oral surgery nature in the operating theatre of hospital
- a dental practitioner registered with Dental Health Services Victoria providing services described on its specialist unit list.
Who is an authorised officer?
An authorised officer is an individual who works with/for the approved medical specialist and can confirm the patient’s details and the approved medical specialist services received. An authorised officer can be a registrar, resident medical officer, intern, nursing unit manager, social worker, ward clerk or administration staff such as a receptionist. The authorised officer can sign a VPTAS claim form on behalf of the medical specialist. The medical specialist’s details must be provided.
Lodge the VPTAS claim form
Applicants should lodge the VPTAS claim by:
- submitting the completed VPTAS claim form no later than 12 months from the date of the first listed approved medical specialist service
- providing original receipts or tax invoices for travel and accommodation (petrol receipts are not required)
- completing the travel and accommodation diary within the claim form
- ensuring all information provided is true and correct
- making sure the medical specialist’s details are correctly completed on the claim form and the specialist or their authorising officer has signed the claim form.
The claim lodgement date is the date the VPTAS office receives the completed claim form. The applicant should keep a photocopy of all receipts and documents, including the completed VPTAS claim form. Processing time and payment takes approximately six to eight weeks from the claim lodgement date. Payment can be made via electronic funds transfer (EFT) or by cheque.