Pensioner Dee O’Loughlin has had a tough couple of years with her health despite being a fit and passionate dancer.

Last year, the 78-year-old developed pneumonia, but said she considered calling for a taxi over an ambulance out of fear of the cost.

“I had a temperature over 40 and I was a bit in and out of being aware,” she said.

“I had thought I need to go to the hospital but the kids are all interstate, overseas.

“I kept thinking ‘I’ll just ride it out, I’m not that sick, I’ll be alright’.”

Dee O’Loughlin was hit with a bill of more than $1,000 last year after she was taken to hospital suffering pneumonia.(ABC News: Justin Hewitson)

Fortunately, her brother found her and called for an ambulance.

But a short time later the Adelaide woman was faced with another problem — paying the fees.

“The bill was nearly $1,200 and then I got a second bill for $200 odd dollars for being between hospitals,” she said.

“Your heart plummets and you start juggling and think ‘what will I save on?’.”

Ms O’Loughlin says some older South Australians were having to learn “strategies” to keep up with the rising costs of living.

“If you have a meal in the middle of the day and you’re not doing much you can go without breakfast and just have soup for dinner,” she said.

“It sounds really silly but that’s a thing you can economise on.”

Council on the Ageing SA chief executive Miranda Starke said data showed scrapping fees for ambulances had no impact on usage.(ABC News: Justin Hewitson)

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) in SA has made a submission to the state government to waive ambulance fees for pensioners in Thursday’s budget.

In Queensland and Tasmania, ambulance fees and charges for residents are covered entirely by the state governments.

Most other states and territories have made ambulance services free for pensioners or pension concession card holders.

SA pensioners, on the other hand, are able to apply in writing to access concessions when their bills arrive.

“We really think it’s time the state government stepped up and levelled the playing field,” COTA SA chief executive Miranda Starke said.

“Cost of living is going up, rent is going up, mortgages are going up and more older people are retiring with a mortgage than ever before.

“Something has got to give.”

Ms Starke said there was “plenty” of data to show scrapping fees had no impact on ambulance usage.

She said the triage system meant that one in three calls for help resulted in a call-out.

“We understand on the face of it, it sounds like a really scary, big proposition,” she said.

“In the same way that we don’t ask people to pay for the police to come and help them in an emergency, ambulance is something that many older people rely on as an essential service.”

SA Ambulance Service offers a discounted membership fee for pensioners.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said in a statement SA Ambulance Service provides memberships with discounted fees for pensioners.

Mr Mullighan said the cover is available for emergency and non-emergency transports at the cost of $58 for singles and $115 for eligible families on pensions.

But, for Ms O’Loughlin, a membership falls behind easily on her list of priorities, after expenses such as car insurance and council fees.

“The $58, you think ‘I’ll do that when I get that little cushion’ and keep your fingers crossed,” she said.

Greens leader Robert Simms said budgets were all about choices.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

There was no indication of whether ambulance fees would be addressed in Thursday’s budget.

Greens MLC Robert Simms believed the SA government could tackle the costs if it wanted to.

“Budgets are all about choices,” he said.

“This is a government that is putting billions of dollars into road projects.

“It could put the money into this, particularly in the middle of an economic crisis … and a health crisis.”