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.
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.
Exemption to work in priority areas
You might be eligible to receive a Medicare provider number if you:
- work in a Distribution Priority Area (DPA)or District of Workforce Shortage (DWS) for your medical specialty
- are on an approved workforce or training program
- work at any location after regular hours (6pm to 8am Monday to Friday, or any time Saturday, Sunday and public holidays)
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.
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.
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.
HealthStaff Recruitment 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.
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
- emergency medicine
- geriatric medicine
- general medicine
- intensive care medicine
- orthopaedic surgery
- paediatric medicine
- paediatric surgery
- palliative medicine
- pain medicine
- plastic and reconstructive surgery
- rehabilitation medicine
- sports and exercise medicine
- thoracic medicine
- 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.
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:
- Competent Authority Pathway
- Specialist Pathway – area of need
- Specialist Pathway – specialist recognition.
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.
Source: Department of Health and Aged Care