What is 19AB and who is Affected?

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What is the Health Insurance Act?

In 1973 the Parliament of Australia introduced Medicare, a universal healthcare plan. It provides for payments by way of Medical Benefits and Payments for Hospital Service for other purposes.

What is 19AB and who is affected?

To be eligible to claim Medicare benefits, Overseas Trained Doctors (OTDs) and Foreign Graduates of an Accredited Medical School (FGAMS)* may not only have to meet the requirements of practicing as a General Practitioner but also meet the requirements of Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

Section 19AB restriction is for 10 years and is also called the 10 year moratorium. It can be reduced through a non-cash incentive called scaling.

The restriction requires OTDs and FGAMS to practice in a District of Workforce Shortage (DWS).

What is District of Workforce Shortage (DWS)?

A DWS is a geographical area where the population has less access to Medicare-subsidised services than the national average.

Follow the link to find out if a location is DWS. If it is, it is possible to work any hours in this area:

What other 19AB Exemptions are available?

Below is a list of the main exemptions that can be applied for. These all require an application to go to the Department of Health and can take 6-8 weeks to be approved. 

  • Locum Exemption - A locum exemption allows for you to work in a practice anywhere in Australia for up to 6 months. The 6 months can only be as one block (so you can’t for instance do a month a year for 6 years). Once the 6 months at that location is used up you cannot continue to rebate at that practice, whilst still under moratorium. 

  • After Hours Exemption - An after hours exemption allows you to work in a practice anywhere in Australia between 6pm to 8am weekdays and from 6pm Friday night through to 8am Monday morning. 

  • Spousal Exemption - If your Spouse is one of the below, then you may be eligible to apply for a Spousal Exemption to work in a location within reasonable distance of your spouse’s primary place of employment:

    • A Medical Practitioner and not subject to a moratorium

    • A Medical Practitioner and been granted an unconditional 19AB exemption

    • A non-doctor that has skills that are in shortage that have been assessed by a relevant authority

  • Replacement Exemption - A replacement exemption may be granted if a departing doctor initially entered the clinic whilst it was classified as a DWS area. The departing doctor must provide a signed statutory declaration advising of the fact that they have ceased working in that location. A replacement exemption has to be granted within 12 months of the departing Doctor’s end date.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Specific Primary Health Services - You may be 19AB exempt if you are employed by government-funded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Specific Primary Health Services. This could be anywhere in Australia.

  • Academic Exemption - To be eligible for an academic exemption, you would need to have an academic appointment with an Australian medical school, and [erform clinical services as a part of your role.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are not Vocationally Registered (non VR) and a Permanent Resident of Australia, then you may be required to satisfy the requirements of 19AA also, this is usually required prior to the 19AB application.

*Foreign Graduates of an Accredited Medical School (FGAMS) are Doctors that gained their primary medical degree outside Australia or New Zealand, or who were not citizens at the time of enrolment.


The team at Medical Recruitment has a plethora of knowledge and experience in working with Doctors, Practices and 19AB legislation. Feel free to contact us to discuss your personal requirements and situation.