The Scaling Initiative - Questions and Answers

This page provides information about the Scaling Initiative for the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Scheme in the form of questions and answers.

Page last updated: 24 May 2016

1. What is Scaling?
2. What are Remoteness Area categories?
3. Where can I work?
4. When can I begin to reduce my Return of Service Period using Scaling?
5. What are the eligibility criteria?
6. How will Scaling discounts be calculated?
7. What if I only work in an area for a short period of time or work in more than one location in a month?
8. How will I be informed of the discount applied to my record?
9. What if I don't agree with the discount(s) I have received?
10. What happens when I finish my Return of Service Period?
11. How can I get more information?

1. What is Scaling?

The Scaling initiative was announced in the 2009-10 Federal Budget as part of the Rural Health Workforce Strategy. Scaling is being applied to a range of Australian Government programs that have a Return of Service Period, including the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Scheme. Scaling increases the attractiveness of working in rural areas by reducing your Return of Service Period based on the Remoteness Area (RA) category you are working in. The greatest reward will be for those willing to work in the most remote locations of Australia.

2. What are Remoteness Area categories?

The Geographic Classification System (GCS) for the MRBS Scheme is based on the Australian Standard Geographical Classification - Remoteness Areas (ASGC-RA) classification system, which groups locations into 'remoteness area' categories (RA categories).

The RA categories for the MRBS Sceme are:
RA category number as used by the Department in the MRBS Scheme
RA1 - Major Cities of Australia
RA2 - Inner Regional Australia
RA3 - Outer Regional Australia
RA4 - Remote Australia
RA5 - Very Remote Australia

From January 2010, RA categories have applied to the MRBS Scheme to determine eligible work areas for doctors completing their return of service period, replacing the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) classification system.

Further information on the RA categories can be found on the Doctor Connect website.

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3. Where can I work?

MRBS scheme doctors have to work in RA 2 (Inner Regional Australia) to RA 5 (Very Remote Australia) categories. You can check the RA category of a location at Doctor Connect website.

4. When can I begin to reduce my Return of Service Period using Scaling?

Scaling will be applied once you have attained Fellowship and commenced your Return of Service Period.

5. What are the eligibility criteria?

If you are billing Medicare, Scaling discounts will be applied to your Return of Service Period each month if you signed an agreement (or a Deed of Variation to an existing agreement) which included the possibility of Scaling being used, and:

  • your Return of Service Period has commenced;
  • you have worked in a RA2 (Inner Regional Australia) to RA5 (Very Remote Australia) category; and
  • you continue to meet your Return of Service Period obligation by working at least 20 hours per week for that month.

If you are working in a salaried position, Scaling discounts will be applied to your Return of Service Period if you signed an agreement (or a Deed of Variation to an existing agreement) which included the possibility of Scaling being used, and:

  • your Return of Service Period has commenced;
  • you have worked in a RA2 (Inner Regional Australia) to RA5 (Very Remote Australia) category; and
  • you continue to meet your Return of Service Period obligation by working at least 20 hours per week for that month.

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6. How will Scaling discounts be calculated?

Medicare Australia will determine the RA category in which your highest value of claims occurred and apply the Scaling discount to that RA category. The relevant Scaling discount will then be discounted from your Return of Service Period end date.

If you are a salaried officer, the Scaling discount applicable to the major RA category will be discounted from your Return of Service Period end date.

Scaling will be applied monthly at the following rates:
RA Category
Scaling Discount Rate %
RA 2 - Inner Regional Australia
10%
RA 3 - Outer Regional Australia
30%
RA 4 - Remote Australia
40%
RA 5 - Very Remote Australia
50%

7. What if I only work in an area for a short period of time or work in more than one location in a month?

The claiming activity in all eligible RA locations, irrespective of the number of services provided in each RA category, will be calculated. If you average a total of 20 hours per week of work across different eligible areas, Medicare Australia will apply the discount applicable to the RA category where the major activity occurred.

8. How will I be informed of the discount applied to my record?

Doctors billing Medicare

You will be able to view your return of service period and scaling discount(s) through The Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Health Professionals Online Services (HPOS). HPOS offers improved access to DHS’s provider online services and provides access to information concerning your identity, eligibility and details necessary for the processing and payments of Medicare claims.

To access the HPOS system, please follow the instructions on the DHS website at: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/health-professionals/services/medicare/hpos

Alternatively, information regarding HPOS can be obtained by contacting the Department of Human Services Medicare Program by:

  • Calling 132 150 option 6 - electronic claiming or Health Professional Online Services (HPOS)
  • eBusiness Service Centre on 1800 700 199 or email ebusiness@humanservices.gov.au.

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Salaried doctors

The Department of Health will email you on a six monthly basis, or when you move locations, with your Return of Service Period and Scaling discount.

9. What if I don't agree with the discount(s) I have received?

Once you have begun your Return of Service Period, enquiries in reference to the Scaling discount can be made to Medicare Australia. Service officers will explain the process used to determine the monthly discount.

Medicare Australia will run monthly Scaling and include the recalculation of the previous three months. This will identify any claims with a date of service during the previous three month period. Furthermore, to ensure all late claims are included, an automated recalculation will occur twice yearly (March and September). The twice yearly recalculations will calculate the previous six month period and up to two years once this data exists.

If you work in a salaried position, enquiries in reference to the Scaling discount can be made to the Department of Health.

10. What happens when I finish my Return of Service Period?

The Department will notify you that your contractual obligations have been completed.

11. How can I get more information?

For questions regarding the MRBS Scheme contact the Department of Health

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Email: MRBscholarships@health.gov.au
Website: MRB scholarships
Mail: MRBS Scheme
MDP 149
Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Further information on the RA categories can be found on the Doctor Connect website.