Section 19AB exemptions

Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to get an exemption that allows you to access Medicare rebates before the end of your 10-year moratorium. The best way to get an indefinite exemption is to work in a DPA or DWS location. Exemptions to work outside those locations are limited.

Before you apply

There are various types of exemptions to restrictions under section 19AB. Each has different eligibility, application, and evidence requirements.

Before applying, read our fact sheet to ensure you:

  • understand the key eligibility requirements
  • understand how to apply
  • understand how we assess applications
  • provide the required evidence.

If you provide incorrect documentation or information, we might decline your application.

19AB restricted doctors – Access to Medicare provider numbers

This fact sheet provides a useful summary of how section 19AB works, how to apply, each exemption and the assessment criteria. It is an overview only, and should be read together with the administrative procedures.

The approved general practice workforce and training programs each have their own location eligibility requirements. These exemptions cannot be used to access these programs at locations that do not meet these location eligibility requirements. You will be eligible for an exemption when you join an approved program at an eligible location.

Exemptions

Exemption to work in priority areas

You might be eligible to receive a Medicare provider number if you:

To see locations classified as DPA and DWS, search the Health Workforce Locator.

6-month locum exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location for up to 6 months while you arrange work in a DPA or DWS location. You cannot extend or repeat a locum exemption.

Assistance at operations exemption

This exemption grants access to assistance-at-operations Medicare items in any location. It allows you to assist at an operation or an invasive specialist procedure under the supervision of a fully qualified surgeon.

Replacement exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location if you replace a doctor who held an unrestricted 19AB exemption and no longer works in the local area.

Spousal exemption

If your spouse is a medical practitioner or a skilled migrant, you may be able to practise near their primary place of employment.  

Prior employment negotiations

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location if you started negotiating your employment with the practice when it was within a DPA or DWS for your specialty.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health services exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location if it is at an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health service with an exemption under section 19(2) of the Health Insurance Act 1973. This means they can claim Medicare items for non-admitted, non-referred services, including nursing, midwifery, allied and dental services.

Your local Rural Workforce Agency can help identify eligible locations.

After hours exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location if you work after regular hours. This means working:

  • between 6pm and 8am Monday to Friday
  • any time Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

Discretionary exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location because of:

  • medical reasons – if you are the primary carer for a close family member who has a serious medical condition that can’t be managed in a DPA or DWS location
  • exceptional circumstances – an unforeseen, unavoidable and uncommon event, such as border restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Specialties in acute shortage exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location if you are registered with Ahpra as a specialist in:

  • cardiothoracic surgery
  • dermatology
  • emergency medicine
  • endocrinology
  • geriatric medicine
  • gastroenterology
  • general medicine
  • haematology
  • intensive care medicine
  • nephrology
  • neurology
  • neurosurgery
  • orthopaedic surgery
  • otolaryngology
  • paediatric medicine
  • paediatric surgery
  • palliative medicine
  • pain medicine
  • plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • rehabilitation medicine
  • rheumatology
  • sports and exercise medicine
  • thoracic medicine
  • urology
  • vascular surgery.

The 5-year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme

The 5-year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme lets overseas trained doctors and foreign graduates of an accredited medical school reduce the time they must work in a DPA or DWS to as little as 3 years by:

  • working in an eligible rural or remote location for a set period
  • obtaining permanent residency and fellowship during their time on the program.

Academic exemption

You can seek an academic exemption if all of the following apply:

  • You have satisfied section 19AA requirements.
  • You have an academic appointment with an Australian medical school.
  • You perform clinical services as part of your academic appointment.

This exemption does not apply to private practices without teaching responsibilities.

Other circumstances we may consider an exemption

Unrestricted exemption for the same DPA/DWS catchment

If you hold an unrestricted exemption for one practice, you can apply for access to Medicare benefits when working in other practices within the same DPA catchment.

Competent Authority Pathway exemption

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in the locations listed on your Ahpra registration if you are on the:

The requested location(s) must be in a DPA/DWS, except in exceptional circumstances.

Exemption following completion of a 3GA Program

This exemption grants you access to Medicare benefits in any location if you continue to work at the practice where you obtained your fellowship.

You must have provided at least 12 months of continuous service at that practice and have obtained your fellowship through an approved training or workforce program

Related information

19AB restricted doctors – Access to Medicare provider numbers

This fact sheet provides a useful summary of how section 19AB works, how to apply, each exemption and the assessment criteria. It is an overview only, and should be read together with the administrative procedures.

Last updated: 
1 December 2021

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