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HECS Reimbursement Scheme Guidelines

Important Information

The HECS Reimbursement Scheme ceased on 30 June 2015.

Claiming Final Payments

Applications for final payments up to 30 June 2015 were accepted by the Department of Human Services until 31 July 2015.

More information

For more information about the cessation and final payment arrangements, please refer to these Frequently Asked Questions or call DHS on 1800 010 550 (call charges may apply).

The HECS Reimbursement Scheme started in 2001. It aims to:

  • promote careers in rural medicine
  • increase the number of doctors in rural and regional areas, through the reimbursement of HECS-HELP fees for standard Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) at Australian universities.

Through the scheme, communities have improved access to health services as more doctors move to work in rural areas.

Participants in the scheme have a proportion of their standard CSP HECS-HELP fees (incurred for medical studies) reimbursed for each year of medical service or training undertaken provided in rural and remote areas of Australia.

Payments under the scheme are scaled according to the remoteness of practice or training locations. This means participants in the most remote locations can have their standard CSP HECS-HELP fees reimbursed in as little as 2 years.

The Australian Standard Geographical Classification – Remoteness Areas (RA) is used to define eligible areas. (See ‘Identification of eligible locations’)

When applying to the Scheme or claiming a payment, please ensure that all questions on the forms are answered and all relevant supporting documentation is submitted with the form. Failure to do so will result in the incomplete form being returned to you for completion and re submission. Incomplete application or claim forms cannot be assessed and eligibility will be determined from the date a completed form is received.

Eligibility for HECS Reimbursement

All eligible medical graduates can participate in the scheme.

To be eligible, graduates must meet ALL criteria listed below:

  • be an Australian citizen or hold an Australian permanent resident visa;
  • through a CSP have completed an accredited Australian medical course, leading to the award (conferment) of a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBS) or equivalent;
  • have completed their final year of study and obtained their medical degree in the last six years (noting that six years commences from the date of conferment of the degree and the initial application must be received within this time frame);
  • have provided medical services or undertaken continuous training as defined by the Health Insurance ACT 1973 in an eligible RA 2-5 location;
  • have provided the initial twelve months continuous training after the date of conferment of the degree; and
  • have been a CSP student that incurred a HECS-HELP debt.

Continuous Service

Continuous service is defined as medical services or training undertaken without breaks beyond normal leave provisions in an eligible RA 2-5 location for a period of 12 or 6 consecutive months.

Any medical services or training provided outside an eligible RA 2-5 location during this period will not count towards continuous service and the qualifying period will recommence on return to an eligible location.

Documentary evidence

Applicants need to provide appropriate evidence that their terms of employment meet the requirements to provide continuous service during the period in question. They must also provide evidence that their continuous service has been undertaken in an RA 2-5 location.

Examples of appropriate documentary evidence include:

  • copies of the relevant sections of employment contracts,
  • verification of the terms of employment supplied by the training provider, or
  • statutory declarations.

NOTES:

  1. Payments will only be made after an initial continuous 12 month period of eligible medical service provision or training, on the basis of proof of employment.
  2. Graduates who’ve received a bonded scholarship, a bonded place or a scholarship that covered HECS fees may not be eligible for the HECS Reimbursement Scheme. (See ‘Other scholarship schemes or incentive payments’)
  3. Full-fee (FEE-HELP) paying medical students are not eligible for the HECS Reimbursement Scheme.

Part-time service or training

Applicants providing medical services or undertaking eligible training part-time will be reimbursed on a pro-rata basis provided they work more than 10 hours and less than 21 hours per week.

Payments

The first payment under the scheme will be made at the completion of a continuous 12 month period of medical service provision or training in an eligible RA 2-5 location. Subsequent payments will be made at the completion of every continuous 6 month period thereafter.

No pro-rata payments will be made for periods of less than 6 months. Payments will not be made for medical services or training provided in non-eligible locations.

HECS reimbursement will only be made if participants submit an approved claim for payment form (with relevant documentary evidence) within 12 months of completing an eligible block of medical service or training.

Verification documentation

Applicants will need to provide appropriate official documents (see ‘Eligibility for HECS Reimbursement’) to verify their eligibility for the scheme, and to certify their HECS-HELP payment details. Providing false and misleading information is a serious offence.

You need to let us know as soon as possible after your circumstances change in case it affects your payment. If you don't tell us about the changes, you may find yourself in debt. If you are overpaid benefits, you will probably have to pay the money back.

Payments will not be made to participants until all relevant documentation has been received by The Department of Human Services.

Assessment process

The completed application form is the first step in establishing eligibility for the scheme. It also provides the details through which HECS reimbursement will be made for the initial 12 month period.

The applicant has to provide:

  • information about their medical course, including date of commencement and year of completion,
  • details about locations where medical services or training have been undertaken or provided,
  • evidence of continuous service in an eligible RA 2-5 location.

The application form must be endorsed by the applicant’s supervising doctor. If the supervisor can’t provide certification, the applicant must attach a statutory declaration giving details of location and periods of service completed.

Evidence of HECS-HELP debt

Applicants who’ve deferred all or part of their HECS-HELP debt must submit a statement from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as evidence of their debt. Statements must show amounts deferred per semester for the duration of the applicant’s degree.

Call the ATO Personal Tax Info line on 1300 650 225 for details.

Applicants must provide evidence of any up-front payments of their HECS fees.

Proof of employment

Participants in the scheme must submit proof of employment at the completion of each continuous period of service to ensure their ongoing eligibility.

Proof of employment must include:

  • the location’s name, state and postcode
  • verification by the supervising doctor.

This information helps The Department of Human Services determine area eligibility using the ASGC-RA (RA) classification.

The Department of Human Services must be notified promptly of any change of address or circumstances.

Reimbursement funds

Reimbursements will be paid directly to the participant’s nominated bank account.

The initial HECS-HELP reimbursement under this scheme is dependent on completion of the continuous 12 month qualifying period.

Because of scaling of payments, the more remote the location where medical services or training have taken place, the greater the payment to participants in the scheme.
ASGC-RA CATEGORY
NO. OF YEARS TO RECEIVE FULL REIMBURSEMENT ENTITLEMENT
% OF HECS-HELP ENTITLEMENT REIMBURSED PER 12MTH PERIOD
% OF HECS-HELP ENTITLEMENT REIMBURSED FOR A SUBSEQUENT 6MTH PERIOD
2
5 years
20%
10%
3
4 years
25%
12.5%
4
3 years
33.3%
16.7%
5
2 years
50%
25%
Note: periods containing multiple RA categories will be calculated pro-rata per location.

Basis of calculation for reimbursement

Under the scheme, reimbursements are only calculated on the HECS-HELP total for the standard fees of the years studied for the medical degree.

Participants in the scheme will not be reimbursed for:
  • undergraduate degrees or bridging courses that qualify a student to undertake a graduate medical degree
  • previous degrees that incurred any HECS debts or payments
  • any HECS fees incurred for failed or incomplete units
  • any additional units that are not part of the standard degree
  • fees imposed by the university above the standard HECS-HELP fee for a CSP.
Students who have chosen to pay their HECS-HELP up-front receive a reduction from the ATO. Students who have deferred all or part of their HECS-HELP debt can make voluntary repayments to reduce their outstanding debt. If a voluntary repayment of $500 or more is made, the ATO reduces the debt. The HECS-HELP reimbursement will therefore be reduced consistent with ATO reductions.

Total HECS-HELP reimbursement

The HECS Reimbursement Scheme is designed to repay a medical graduate’s HECS-HELP debt or up-front HECS-HELP payments for a standard CSP. Reimbursements under this scheme will be adjusted to reflect the differing HECS-HELP payments amounts. The Department of Human Services will derive a total HECS-HELP reimbursement amount for each participant, which will form the basis for all HECS-HELP reimbursements.

Participants will be advised by The Department of Human Services of their total HECS-HELP reimbursement amount by letter.

Request a review

Applicants may request a review of their eligibility or payment calculations. Applicants must apply in writing to The Department of Human Services, including their name, information on the calculation they want reviewed and the grounds for requesting the review, within 28 days of notification.

Enquiries

Call The Department of Human Services on 1800 010 550 with enquiries about the HECS Reimbursement Scheme eligibility or payments.

The scheme is subject to change or termination at any time, depending on government policy. Payments are made to participants in the HECS Reimbursement Scheme at the sole discretion of the Australian government. Participants do not have a legally enforceable entitlement to any payment.

Reimbursement payments and tax

The payments made under this scheme are subject to Pay As You Go (PAYG) income tax, which will be withheld at the time of payment. Payments will be increased to ensure that participants receive the full reimbursement calculated in the payment total. No GST applies to these payments.

The Department of Human Services will provide a statement of earnings to each participant at the end of each financial year, showing the level of payment and the amount of taxation withheld.

Periods of absence

Participants who temporarily cease practising in rural and regional Australia, do not forfeit their right to claim further reimbursements of their HECS-HELP debt, providing they continue to meet all other eligibility requirements.

Participants who take extended leave beyond normal leave provisions will not receive HECS-HELP reimbursement until the required period of continuous service (12 months initially and subsequent 6 months thereafter) is completed.

Leave provisions

Normal leave provisions are 4 weeks annual leave plus 14 days of sick or family leave over a 12 month period.

Additional special purpose leave allocations (such as maternity leave) approved under the terms of a participant’s employment will be considered normal leave, provided documentary evidence is attached.

A pro-rata leave allocation will apply for 6 month periods of service. Participants may nominate to take longer periods of leave during 6 month blocks, provided written advice is submitted to The Department of Human Services and the 12 months leave allocation is not exceeded.

All leave must be documented. This includes:

  • sick leave
  • annual leave
  • family leave
  • time practicing at another location (including location details).

Identification of eligible locations

Eligible locations are identified under the ASGC-RA (RA) classification system. RA 2-5 locations are eligible for the HECS Reimbursement Scheme.

Go to the Remoteness Area Locator map.

Other schemes or incentive payments

Bonded scholarships or places

Recipients of any other bonded scholarships or places (for example, Australian Government Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (MRBS) Scheme, Bonded Medical Places (BMP) Scheme and Australian Defence Force Scholarships) are not eligible for this scheme while they are completing their return of service obligation or claiming for that period. Outside this contracted period, these scholarship or place holders may be eligible to participate in the scheme, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements.

Applicants for the scheme who have received a bonded scholarship or place are required to supply details with their application form.

Commonwealth scholarships

Recipients of a Commonwealth scholarship/s that exceeds the MRBS limit per annum for the year they received the scholarship/s are not eligible for the HECS Reimbursement Scheme.

Non-Commonwealth scholarships

Recipients of a non-Commonwealth scholarship/s may be eligible for the HECS Reimbursement Scheme, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements.

Other scholarships

Other scholarships or incentive payments, which don’t involve a contractual obligation to provide services in rural or remote areas, or don’t pay HECS fees, are unlikely to impact on eligibility for the HECS Reimbursement Scheme. Examples are the Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarship (RAMUS) Scheme and the John Flynn placement program.

Applicants who have received a scholarship that includes coverage of HECS-HELP fees are not eligible for HECS reimbursement of the years they received the scholarship.

Applicants who’ve received such a scholarship must supply details with their application form.