Removal of HECS-HELP fees for medical professionals working in rural towns
There have been several initiatives launched by Governments since the pandemic to boost the health resources within the Australian community. Whilst the impact of COVID on the healthcare system [still] rages on, demand for medical professionals in rural towns, specifically for GPs, are in seemingly short supply with appointment wait times blowing out across the country.
One such initiative to mitigate this issue is the HECS reimbursement scheme which is the removal of HELP debts for GPs working in remote areas, effective from 1 January 2022.
What is HECS-HELP?
Many young doctors start their medical careers with a significant Higher Education Loan Payment (HELP) debt. A HELP debt is a loan provided by the Australian Government for university fees. Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), is the provision of a discounted university fee for a Commonwealth Supported Place. That is, the fee is reduced, partially subsidised by the Government from the full fee amount and put on the HELP repayment system.
Now, medical interns and residents struggling to decide on the right specialty to pursue will also need to weigh up the benefit of having no HELP debt should they meet certain criteria under the HELP debt removal initiative.
How can a doctor access the HECS-HELP debt removal initiative?
Doctors eligibility for HECS-HELP debt removal is determined by a few factors, you must:
- Be a graduate of a higher education provider with a recognised medical degree;
- Accumulate a HELP debt for that qualification;
- Have an outstanding HELP debt for all or part of that qualification; and
- Have successfully completed your internship and received registration as a medical practitioner from the appropriate authority/authorities to practice and have completed Post Graduate Year 3 (PGY3) or higher.
Where and how do medical professionals need to work to benefit from this remote area incentive package?
The Modified Monash Model (MMM) which effectively rates areas of need based on how remote they are from metropolitan Australian cities is used to determine the impact on the HECS-HELP debt for GPs.
Conditions for a full (100%) HECS-HELP debt removal
From 1 January 2022, the Government will eliminate 100% of an eligible individual’s outstanding HECS-HELP debt from the time they:
- Reside in and provide services (i.e. eligible work) in a rural, remote or very remote location – as classified under the MMM – for a required amount of time, as follows:
– MM 6-7: half the length of degree/program of study
– MM 3-5: full length of degree/program of study
(noting that the standard degree length for medicine is 4 to 6 years)
- Work in a General Practice
- Provide a minimum level of Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) billed services (equivalent to 24 hours per week, and includes both bulk billed and privately billed services) during that time.
Conditions for a partial (50%) HECS-HELP debt removal
Partial elimination (50%) is available once half the required amount of time is completed.
Also, from 1 January 2022, removal of HECS-HELP fees for medical professionals (doctors and nurse practitioners) will be possible; eligibility will be based on a waiver of indexation on outstanding HELP debts for the period they reside in and complete eligible work in a rural, remote or very remote area.
Other information doctors need to know about the HECS-HELP reimbursement scheme
- If you have already repaid your HECS-HELP debt, you will not benefit from this change.
- A doctor already working in an eligible rural location or remote area as determined by MMM will have service from 1 January 2022 counted towards the service period only, not any previous service.
If you think you might benefit from the initiative, want to discuss eligibility criteria and your situation in more detail, or for assistance with applying for a HECS-HELP fees debt reduction, book an appointment with a medical tax specialist.
Disclaimer: *This article contains general information only and does not consider your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should assess whether the information contained in this communication is appropriate in relation to your own objectives, financial situation or needs