Fact Sheet – Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973
What does it meanSection 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act) requires overseas trained doctors (OTDs) and foreign graduates of accredited medical schools (FGAMS) to practise in a district of workforce shortage (DWS) for a period of ten years from the date of their first medical registration in Australia. Section 19AB of the Act acts as a workforce distribution mechanism to ensure doctors are directed to work in communities that have the most acute unmet needs.
The ten year period (mentioned above) is commonly referred to as ‘the 10 year moratorium’. If a doctor has not obtained Australian permanent residency or citizenship by the end of the 10 year moratorium, they will still require a section 19AB exemption in order to access Medicare benefits arrangements.
What does section 19AB restrictSection 19AB restricts OTDs and FGAMS from providing medical services that attract a Medicare rebate. In simple terms, section 19AB restricts doctors from being eligible to either claim Medicare rebates for their services or from having a third party claim Medicare rebates on their behalf. A section 19AB(3) exemption has the effect of allowing an OTD or FGAMS to claim Medicare rebates for their services at a specified medical practice location(s).
What is a district of workforce shortage (DWS)A DWS is an area where the general population’s need for medical services is deemed to be unmet. An area is a DWS if it has less access to medical services than the national average. The current DWS status of every location in Australia for the medical specialty of general practice is available through the locator map at www.doctorconnect.gov.au/. The DWS status of a particular medical practice can be confirmed by typing the exact street location in the locator map.
From 2 February 2015, a new DWS system that uses the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population data and the most recent medical services data commenced. The new system has created more stability for towns that fluctuate in their DWS status. All DWS determinations for all medical specialties, including general practice, are updated annually.
All doctors should note that special DWS determinations are not made for individual communities or regions as declaring workforce shortage on a discretionary basis would be contradictory to the Australian Government’s workforce distribution objectives.
What does section 19AB achieveSection 19AB is a key part of the Australian Government’s strategy towards achieving an equitable distribution of medical practitioners across both urban and rural Australia.
Timeframes for processing of exemption applicationsThe Department has a statutory timeframe of 28 days to process section 19AB exemption applications once they are received from the Department of Human Services (DHS) – Medicare. Once the Department has processed your section 19AB exemption, it is sent back to the Department of Human Services (DHS) – Medicare so that they can process your Medicare provider number application.
Please note that, prior to commencing work you should contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) - Medicare to confirm that your Medicare Provider application has been processed and as in place.
Contact informationDepartment of Health
Access Policy Section
For questions about issuing of Medicare provider numbers
Department of Human Services (DHS) - Medicare
Call 132 150 (all States)
Alternatively, further information is available on the DoctorConnect website at http://www.doctorconnect.gov.au/internet/otd/publishing.nsf/Content/section19AB
Further information regarding what is a district of workforce shortage (DWS) is also on the DoctorConnect website at http://www.doctorconnect.gov.au/internet/otd/publishing.nsf/Content/dwsFactsheet