Distribution Priority Area (DPA) and 19AB Exemptions

Distribution Priority Area (DPA) and Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act can be difficult to understand. Below are the list of commonly asked questions on our website and social media channels.

1. What is Section 19AB?

  • Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973 is an Australian Government regulation that controls the distribution of medical services in rural and remote areas by imposing certain restrictions on overseas trained doctors (OTDs) and foreign graduates of accredited medical schools (FGAMS).

2. Where can I work if I am an OTD/FGAMS subject to Section 19AB?

  • OTDs and FGAMS can work in Distribution Priority Areas (DPAs) for GPs or Districts of Workforce Shortage (DWS) for other specialties to gain access to Medicare benefits. These areas are identified by the government.

3. Can I work in a non-DPA/DWS location?

  • In certain circumstances, you may gain an exemption to work outside a DPA/DWS. More information about these exemptions is available.

4. How do I apply for a Section 19AB exemption?

  • To apply for a Section 19AB exemption, you must submit a completed Medicare provider number application to Services Australia (Medicare). They will assess your eligibility and, if approved, issue a Medicare provider number.

5. What if I disagree with a decision on my exemption request?

  • If your exemption request is denied and you disagree with the outcome, you can request a reconsideration under Section 19AC of the Act. Follow the provided process for reconsideration.

6. Are there any special arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • The Department of Health may consider exemptions on a case-by-case basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants should follow the usual application process and provide evidence of how the pandemic has affected their ability to meet Section 19AB requirements.

7. What types of exemptions are available?

  • There are various types of exemptions, including locum, assistance at operations, replacement, spousal, prior employment negotiations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care service, after-hours, discretionary, and specialties in acute shortage exemptions.

8. How does the 5-year Overseas Trained Doctor Scheme work?

  • This scheme allows overseas trained doctors and foreign graduates to reduce the time they must work in a DPA or DWS location to as little as 3 years by meeting specific requirements.

9. What is an academic exemption?

  • An academic exemption is available if you satisfy certain criteria, including having an academic appointment with an Australian medical school and performing clinical services as part of your academic role.

10. Can I get an exemption for the same DPA/DWS catchment as my unrestricted exemption? – 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.

11. How long does it take to process exemption applications? – Exemption applications are processed within 28 working days of receipt. However, processing times may vary, especially during peak periods.

12. Who do these restrictions apply to? – These restrictions apply to overseas trained doctors and foreign graduates of accredited medical schools who got their medical degree outside Australia or New Zealand.

13. How can I apply for a spousal or discretionary exemption? – To apply for a spousal exemption, complete and submit the application form provided. For discretionary exemptions, follow the guidelines outlined in the fact sheet.

14. Can exemptions be backdated? – Exemptions cannot be backdated, so you must have a valid Medicare provider number and exemption before providing services that attract a Medicare rebate.

15. What happens if I become a permanent resident? – If you become a permanent resident, you should notify Medicare immediately to ensure the validity of your exemption.

16. Can I keep my exemption with fellowship qualifications or on a 3GA program? – If you have fellowship qualifications or are on a 3GA program when becoming a permanent resident, your existing exemption terms will remain in place.

17. What is the purpose of the 10-year moratorium? – The 10-year moratorium requires doctors to work for at least 10 years in a DPA or DWS area to ensure equal access to healthcare services, especially in rural and remote areas.

18. Can I work in a public hospital without these restrictions? – You can work in a salaried position in a public hospital without these restrictions, as such positions do not attract Medicare benefits.

19. How can I contact Section 19AB for more information? – For more information about Section 19AB requirements for international medical graduates working in Australia, you can contact them at 19AB@health.gov.au.

20. Where can I find more information about these exemptions? – You can find more detailed information on the Department of Health website, and for specific questions about exemptions, contact the Department of Health at 19AB@health.gov.au.


The information provided on this webpage is intended for general informational purposes only. Every doctor’s circumstances may vary, and the regulations and requirements related to Section 19AB exemptions can change over time.

Before taking any action or making decisions based on the information provided here, we strongly recommend that you conduct your own research and seek guidance from relevant authorities.

To confirm your eligibility for a Medicare provider number and Section 19AB exemptions, it is essential to contact the following organizations directly:

  1. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA):
  2. Medicare:
  3. Department of Health:

Please be aware that the provided information may not cover all individual circumstances, and eligibility criteria may change. It is essential to verify your specific situation with the relevant authorities for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

Reference Source: Department of Health – Section 19AB Exemptions

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