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19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973

What it does

Section 19AB of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act)

Section 19AB of the Act applies to overseas trained doctors (OTDs) and foreign graduates of an accredited medical school (FGAMS) who gained their first Australian medical registration after
1 January 1997. Section 19AB of the Act restricts their access to the Medicare benefit arrangements and requires them to work in a district of workforce shortage (DWS) in order to access Medicare rebates for their medical services.

OTDs and FGAMS who are subject to section 19AB of the Act are generally required to work in a DWS for a period of ten years (referred to as the ten year moratorium requirement) from the date of their first Australian medical registration.

What’s a district of workforce shortage (DWS)?A DWS is an area where the general population’s need for medical services is deemed to be unmet. An area is a DWS if it has less access to medical services than the national average. The current DWS status of every location in Australia for the medical specialty of general practice is available through the locator map at The DWS status of a particular medical practice can be confirmed by typing the exact street location in the locator map.

From 2 February 2015, a new DWS system that uses the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population data and the most recent medical services data will commence. The new system will create more stability for towns that fluctuate in their DWS status. DWS determinations for GP services will be updated every year, instead of every quarter, as at present. Information about the DWS amendments will be available on the DoctorConnect website at

What it achieves

Section 19AB is a key part of the Australian Government’s strategy towards achieving an equitable distribution of medical practitioners across both urban and rural Australia.

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For questions about provider numbers
Medicare Australia
Call: 132 150 (all States)
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