How do 19AB exemptions work?

When you decide to make a move in your medical career there are a lot of legal requirements to consider. Sections 19AA and 19AB impact doctors transitioning from hospital medicine into GP and those coming straight into Australia from overseas.

We know the legal jargon can be a bit confusing. That's why we've created a couple of fact sheets on both 19AA and 19AB. Below you'll find everything you need to know about 19AB. For more information on 19AA, stay tuned for our next fact sheet. 

We know that requirements for medical professionals can be overwhelming.We know that requirements for medical professionals can be overwhelming.

What is Section 19AB?

This section of the Health Insurance Act of 1973 pertains to overseas trained doctors (OTDs) or foreign graduates of accredited medical schools (FGAMS) who: 

  • Received their first medical registration on or after 1 January 1997 or 
  • Became a permanent Australian resident or citizen on or after 1 January 1997.

Section 19AB restricts access to Medicare provider numbers for these doctors and requires them to work in a district of workforce shortage (DWS) for their medical specialty. By working in these areas the doctors are then able to access Medicare benefits arrangements.

Generally speaking, you are required to work under these restrictions for 10 years from the date of your first Australian medical registration. While this 10 year moratorium requirement is common, there are exceptions which we'll cover in detail a little later.

A district of workforce shortage (DWS) is an area where the general population's need for medical services is deemed to be unmet.

What is a DWS?

A district of workforce shortage (DWS) is an area where the general population's need for medical services is deemed to be unmet. These are locations where access to medical services is lower than the national average.

To get a glimpse of the areas that hold DWS status, check out this locator map. You can even check the status of individual medical practices by popping the street address into the locator map.

What does this all mean for you?

If you fall into any of the categories below you'll need to work in a DWS in order to have your patients collect a rebate from Medicare (or for you to bulk bill).

  • Doctors that completed their medical degree outside of Australia or New Zealand.
  • Medical professionals who weren't an Australian Citizen or didn't hold permanent residency prior to the end of their degree in Australia.
  • Those who registered with AMC after 1 January 1997.
  • Doctors that became Australian Citizens or Permanent Residents after 1 January 1997.

What are the exemptions?

We mentioned some exceptions earlier. As always, there are cases where you can work within the system to forgo some of the standard requirements. The following list is made up of exemption types for section 19AB:

  • Class Exemptions
    • If you have an academic appointment with an Australian medical school and are seeking Medicare access for the express purpose of discharging clinical teaching functions as part of your appointment.
    • If you're applying for a role within hours considered as "After Hours" or if your practice is in the Northern Territory.
  • General Exemptions
    • If you're replacing a doctor who held DWS (conditions apply) or you commenced negotiations with the practice prior to DWS being lost.
  • Spousal Exemptions
    • If your spouse is a doctor who holds a DWS exemption or they migrated to Australia on a skilled occupation visa.
  • ATSI Clinics
    • If the clinic you've applied to work at is an Aboriginal Medical Service that is Commonwealth funded.
  • Locum Service
    • If you're a specialist GP or a non-VR GP on a temporary visa you're eligible for a 6 month exemption from Medicare. It must be six continuous months from approval of the application – meaning you can't pause the six month exemption and use your leftover balance at a later date. 

If you have any more questions about section 19AB or want help beginning your medical journey, reach out to the team at Careers Connections today!

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