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A Bill for an Act to amend the Health Insurance Act 1973, and for related purposes
Administered by: Health
For authoritative information on the progress of bills and on amendments proposed to them, please see the House of Representatives Votes and Proceedings, and the Journals of the Senate as available on the Parliament House website.
Registered 08 Jul 2019
Introduced Senate 04 Jul 2019
Table of contents.

2019

 

The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia

 

THE SENATE

 

 

 

 

Presented and read a first time

 

 

 

 

Health Insurance Amendment (Bonded Medical Programs Reform) Bill 2019

 

No.      , 2019

 

(Health)

 

 

 

A Bill for an Act to amend the Health Insurance Act 1973, and for related purposes

  

  


Contents

1............ Short title............................................................................................. 1

2............ Commencement................................................................................... 1

3............ Schedules............................................................................................ 2

Schedule 1—Amendments                                                                                                3

Health Insurance Act 1973                                                                                        3

 


A Bill for an Act to amend the Health Insurance Act 1973, and for related purposes

The Parliament of Australia enacts:

1  Short title

                   This Act is the Health Insurance Amendment (Bonded Medical Programs Reform) Act 2019.

2  Commencement

             (1)  Each provision of this Act specified in column 1 of the table commences, or is taken to have commenced, in accordance with column 2 of the table. Any other statement in column 2 has effect according to its terms.

 

Commencement information

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Provisions

Commencement

Date/Details

1.  Sections 1 to 3 and anything in this Act not elsewhere covered by this table

The day this Act receives the Royal Assent.

 

2.  Schedule 1

1 January 2020.

1 January 2020

Note:          This table relates only to the provisions of this Act as originally enacted. It will not be amended to deal with any later amendments of this Act.

             (2)  Any information in column 3 of the table is not part of this Act. Information may be inserted in this column, or information in it may be edited, in any published version of this Act.

3  Schedules

                   Legislation that is specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as set out in the applicable items in the Schedule concerned, and any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

Schedule 1Amendments

  

Health Insurance Act 1973

1  Subsection 3(1)

Insert:

Australian university has the same meaning as in the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

Bonded Medical Program: see section 124ZD.

Bonded Medical Program rules: see section 124ZT.

bonded participant: see section 124ZE.

census date has the same meaning as in the Higher Education Funding Act 1988.

course of study in medicine has the same meaning as in the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

eligible location means:

                     (a)  an area prescribed by the Bonded Medical Program rules as a regional, rural or remote area; or

                     (b)  an area prescribed by the Bonded Medical Program rules as an area of workforce shortage.

permanent visa has the same meaning as in the Migration Act 1958.

return of service obligation: see section 124ZF.

2  After Part VC

Insert:

Part VDBonded Medical Program

Division 1Bonded Medical Program

Subdivision AIntroduction

124ZD  Bonded Medical Program

                   The Bonded Medical Program is a statutory scheme provided for by this Part that requires bonded participants to complete a return of service obligation in return for a Commonwealth funded place in a course of study in medicine at an Australian university, which is provided as a benefit to bonded participants as students.

124ZE  Bonded participants

Bonded Medical Program participants

             (1)  If:

                     (a)  a person resides in Australia; and

                     (b)  the person:

                              (i)  is an Australian citizen; or

                             (ii)  holds a permanent visa; and

                     (c)  the person has been offered a place in a course of study in medicine at an Australian university; and

                     (d)  the offer is subject to the person participating in the Bonded Medical Program; and

                     (e)  the person has accepted that offer and is enrolled in the course of study in medicine at that Australian university; and

                      (f)  the person has voluntarily agreed to participate in the Bonded Medical Program using a web portal maintained by the Department;

the person is a bonded participant in the Bonded Medical Program on and after the day the person agrees to participate in the Program until an event mentioned in subsection (4) applies in relation to the person.

Former Bonded Medical Places Scheme participants

             (2)  If:

                     (a)  a person was a party to a deed of agreement with the Commonwealth (as represented by the Department) for funding of a place in the Bonded Medical Places Scheme, including a deed of agreement as varied; and

                     (b)  the person advises the Department that the person wishes to opt in to the Bonded Medical Program under section 124ZU; and

                     (c)  the Secretary agrees, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Bonded Medical Program;

the person is a bonded participant in the Bonded Medical Program on and after the day after the day the Secretary agrees, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Program until an event mentioned in subsection (4) applies in relation to the person.

Former Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship participants

             (3)  If:

                     (a)  a person was a party to a contract with the Commonwealth (as represented by the Department) for a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship, including a contract as varied; and

                     (b)  the person advises the Department that the person wishes to opt in to the Bonded Medical Program under section 124ZU; and

                     (c)  the Secretary agrees, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Bonded Medical Program;

the person is a bonded participant in the Bonded Medical Program on and after the day after the day the Secretary agrees, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Program until an event mentioned in subsection (4) applies in relation to the person.

             (4)  If any of the following apply:

                     (a)  a person completes their return of service obligation;

                     (b)  a person withdraws from, or is barred from, a course of study in medicine at an Australian university;

                     (c)  a person breaches the condition mentioned in paragraph 124ZG(1)(c), and section 124ZJ does not apply to the person;

                     (d)  section 124ZJ applies to a person and the period during which medicare benefits are not payable, as mentioned in that section, ends;

                     (e)  a person withdraws from the Bonded Medical Program in accordance with section 124ZP, and subsection 124ZQ(3) does not apply to the person;

                      (f)  subsection 124ZQ(3) applies to a person and the period during which medicare benefits are not payable, as mentioned in subsection 124ZQ(4), ends;

the person ceases to be a bonded participant on the day the relevant event occurs.

Subdivision BConditions of Bonded Medical Program

124ZF  Return of service obligation

             (1)  A bonded participant must work as a medical practitioner in an eligible location for a period of 3 years (the bonded participant’s return of service obligation).

             (2)  The return of service obligation:

                     (a)  must be completed within 18 years of the day on which a bonded participant completes their course of study in medicine at an Australian university; and

                     (b)  must be completed in accordance with any requirements set out in the Bonded Medical Program rules; and

                     (c)  may be completed by a series of periods; and

                     (d)  in relation to a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(2)—is to be reduced in accordance with paragraph 124ZV(2)(a), if applicable; and

                     (e)  in relation to a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(3)—is to be reduced in accordance with paragraph 124ZW(2)(a), if applicable.

             (3)  A bonded participant may, before the end of the 18 year period, apply to the Secretary for an extension of time to complete their return of service obligation if the bonded participant, or a member of the bonded participant’s family, has a medical condition that prevents the bonded participant from completing their return of service obligation within the 18 year period required by paragraph (2)(a).

             (4)  If:

                     (a)  a bonded participant makes an application before the end of the 18 year period; and

                     (b)  the Secretary is satisfied that the bonded participant is unable to complete their return of service obligation within the 18 year period required by paragraph (2)(a);

the Secretary may, in writing, extend the time within which the return of service obligation may be completed.

124ZG  Conditions of Bonded Medical Program

             (1)  As a bonded participant receiving a Commonwealth funded place, provided as a benefit to students, the bonded participant is subject to the following conditions:

                     (a)  that, within the period prescribed by the Bonded Medical Program rules, the bonded participant complete their course of study in medicine at an Australian university;

                     (b)  that, to complete the bonded participant’s return of service obligation, the participant work, in accordance with the requirements set out in the Bonded Medical Program rules, as a medical practitioner in an eligible location;

                     (c)  that the bonded participant complete their return of service obligation within the period allowed by section 124ZF;

                     (d)  that the bonded participant give information or documents to the Department:

                              (i)  in the circumstances prescribed by the Bonded Medical Program rules; and

                             (ii)  in accordance with any requirements set out in those rules;

                     (e)  if the Secretary requests information or documents from the bonded participant for the purpose of administering this Part—that the bonded participant give such information or documents to the Department in response to the request as soon as practicable after the request is made;

                      (f)  that the bonded participant comply with any other condition set out in the Bonded Medical Program rules.

             (2)  To avoid doubt, a breach of the requirements set out in the Bonded Medical Program rules, as mentioned in paragraph 124ZF(2)(b), is a breach of the condition mentioned in paragraph (1)(b) of this section.

124ZH  Breach of condition of Bonded Medical Program—repayment of education costs

             (1)  This section applies if, when a person is a bonded participant:

                     (a)  both:

                              (i)  the person breaches the condition mentioned in paragraph 124ZG(1)(a); and

                             (ii)  the breach occurs after the person’s census date for the second year of the person’s course of study in medicine at an Australian university; or

                     (b)  the person breaches the condition mentioned in paragraph 124ZG(1)(c).

             (2)  The person must pay:

                     (a)  if the person is a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(1) or (2)—both:

                              (i)  100% of the cost of the person’s course of study in medicine at an Australian university, as funded by the Commonwealth as a benefit to the person as a student, less a pro‑rata proportion based on any proportion of return of service obligation completed; and

                             (ii)  interest on the amount worked out under subparagraph (i) and applied in accordance with the Bonded Medical Program rules; and

                     (b)  if the person is a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(3)—both:

                              (i)  100% of the Commonwealth funded scholarship provided to the person in relation to their course of study in medicine at an Australian university as a benefit to the person as a student, less a pro‑rata proportion based on any proportion of return of service obligation completed; and

                             (ii)  interest on the amount worked out under subparagraph (i) and applied in accordance with the Bonded Medical Program rules.

             (3)  The amounts mentioned in subsection (2) are recoverable as a debt due to the Commonwealth from the person or the estate of the person.

124ZJ  Breach of condition of Bonded Medical Program—medicare benefits not payable

             (1)  A medicare benefit is not payable in respect of a professional service rendered by, or on behalf of, a medical practitioner who:

                     (a)  is a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(3); and

                     (b)  has breached the condition mentioned in paragraph 124ZG(1)(c).

             (2)  The period during which medicare benefits are not payable under subsection (1) is a period of 6 years from the day the breach occurs (even if this period extends beyond the 18 year period mentioned in paragraph 124ZF(2)(a)).

             (3)  This section applies whether or not the medical practitioner was a medical practitioner at the time the breach occurred.

124ZK  Breach of condition of Bonded Medical Program—administrative penalty

             (1)  A person is liable for an administrative penalty if:

                     (a)  the person is a bonded participant; and

                     (b)  the person breaches a condition mentioned in paragraph 124ZG(1)(d) or (e).

             (2)  The amount of the administrative penalty is $10,000.

             (3)  If subsection (1) applies to a person, the Secretary must give the person a written notice of the following:

                     (a)  the person’s liability to pay an administrative penalty;

                     (b)  the breach of condition to which the administrative penalty relates;

                     (c)  if there is more than one breach of condition—the total of the administrative penalties;

                     (d)  the day by which the penalty becomes due for payment (which must be at least 14 days after the day on which the notice is given).

             (4)  An administrative penalty payable under this section:

                     (a)  is a debt due to the Commonwealth; and

                     (b)  may be recovered by the Secretary, on behalf of the Commonwealth, by action in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Subdivision CReview of decisions

124ZL  Application for review

Application may be made

             (1)  A person may apply to the Secretary for review of a decision (the original decision) of an APS employee in the Department made under this Part.

             (2)  An application must:

                     (a)  be in writing; and

                     (b)  set out the reasons for the application; and

                     (c)  be made within:

                              (i)  14 days after the day the original decision was made; or

                             (ii)  if the Secretary allows a longer period—that longer period.

             (3)  After receiving an application under subsection (2), the original decision must be reviewed by:

                     (a)  the Secretary; or

                     (b)  another person who:

                              (i)  is a person to whom the power to review the original decision has been delegated; and

                             (ii)  was not involved in the making of the original decision; and

                            (iii)  occupies a position that is at least the same level as the person who made the original decision.

Decision on review

             (4)  The person reviewing the original decision must:

                     (a)  affirm the original decision; or

                     (b)  vary the original decision; or

                     (c)  set aside the original decision and substitute a new decision.

Note:          An application may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of a decision on review under this subsection: see section 124ZN.

Withdrawal of application

             (5)  A person who has applied for a review of the original decision under subsection (2) may, in writing, withdraw that application at any time before the review has been completed.

             (6)  If the application is withdrawn, it is taken never to have been made.

124ZM  Notice of decision on review

             (1)  The person reviewing the original decision must give the applicant written notice of the decision on review. The notice must include:

                     (a)  the reasons for the decision on review; and

                     (b)  any findings on material questions of fact, including references to evidence or other material on which those findings were based; and

                     (c)  notice of any right to have the decision on review reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

             (2)  If:

                     (a)  under subsection 124ZL(4), the person reviewing the decision decides to:

                              (i)  vary an original decision; or

                             (ii)  set aside an original decision and substitute a new decision; and

                     (b)  the decision on review is made after a person has applied to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review in relation to the original decision;

the Secretary must give written notice of the decision on review to the Registrar of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

124ZN  Review by Administrative Appeals Tribunal

                   Application may be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of the following decisions:

                     (a)  a decision of the Secretary, under subsection 124ZF(4), to refuse to extend the time within which a bonded participant’s return of service obligation may be completed;

                     (b)  a decision under subsection 124ZL(4) by a person reviewing an original decision;

                     (c)  a decision of the Secretary, made under paragraph 124ZV(1)(c) or 124ZW(1)(c), to refuse to agree to a person’s participation in the Bonded Medical Program.

Subdivision DWithdrawal from Bonded Medical Program

124ZP  Withdrawal from Bonded Medical Program

             (1)  A bonded participant may withdraw from the Bonded Medical Program at any time.

             (2)  If a bonded participant wishes to so withdraw, the bonded participant must do so by notifying the Department using a web portal maintained by the Department.

124ZQ  Consequences of withdrawal

Consequences for all participants

             (1)  If a person withdraws from the Bonded Medical Program after the person’s census date for the second year of the person’s course of study in medicine at an Australian university, the person must pay:

                     (a)  if the person was a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(1) or (2)—both:

                              (i)  100% of the cost of the person’s course of study in medicine at an Australian university, as funded by the Commonwealth as a benefit to the person as a student, less a pro‑rata proportion based on any proportion of return of service obligation completed; and

                             (ii)  interest on the amount worked out under subparagraph (i) and applied in accordance with the Bonded Medical Program rules; and

                     (b)  if the person was a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(3)—both:

                              (i)  100% of the Commonwealth funded scholarship provided to the person in relation to their course of study in medicine at an Australian university as a benefit to the person as a student, less a pro‑rata proportion based on any proportion of return of service obligation completed; and

                             (ii)  interest on the amount worked out under subparagraph (i) and applied in accordance with the Bonded Medical Program rules.

             (2)  The amounts mentioned in subsection (1) are recoverable as a debt due to the Commonwealth from the person or the estate of the person.

Additional consequences for former Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship participants

             (3)  A medicare benefit is not payable in respect of a professional service rendered by, or on behalf of, a medical practitioner who:

                     (a)  was a bonded participant covered by subsection 124ZE(3); and

                     (b)  withdraws from the Bonded Medical Program after the person’s census date for the second year of the person’s course of study in medicine at an Australian university.

             (4)  The period during which medicare benefits are not payable under subsection (3) is a period of 6 years from the day the person withdraws from the Bonded Medical Program (even if this period extends beyond the 18 year period mentioned in paragraph 124ZF(2)(a)).

             (5)  Subsection (3) applies whether or not the medical practitioner was a medical practitioner at the time the person withdrew from the Bonded Medical Program.

Subdivision EInformation sharing

124ZR  Authorised collection, use and disclosure

Administration or enforcement of Part

             (1)  The Secretary or an APS employee in the Department is authorised to collect, use and disclose information relating to a bonded participant, including personal information (within the meaning of the Privacy Act 1988), if the collection, use or disclosure is reasonably necessary for the purpose of administering or enforcing the provisions of this Part.

Note:          If a person collects, uses or discloses information relating to a bonded participant otherwise than in accordance with this section, see section 130.

             (2)  Without limiting subsection (1), a collection, use or disclosure for any of the following purposes is taken to be reasonably necessary for the purpose of administering or enforcing the provisions of this Part:

                     (a)  confirming whether a bonded participant is, or was during a particular period, an Australian citizen or holder of a permanent visa;

                     (b)  monitoring a bonded participant’s compliance with the conditions of the Bonded Medical Program set out in section 124ZG;

                     (c)  verifying the accuracy of notifications made, and information or documents provided by, a bonded participant in relation to their participation in the Bonded Medical Program;

                     (d)  assisting a bonded participant’s participation in the Bonded Medical Program.

Compiling and reporting statistical information

             (3)  The Secretary or an APS employee in the Department is authorised to collect, use and disclose information relating to a bonded participant for the purposes of compiling and reporting statistical information relating to the operation of the Bonded Medical Program.

             (4)  Any reporting of statistical information must not identify, or be reasonably capable of being used to identify, an individual.

124ZS  Interaction with the Privacy Act 1988

                   An authorisation to collect, use or disclose information relating to a bonded participant under this Part is also an authorisation to collect, use or disclose information relating to a bonded participant for the purposes of the Privacy Act 1988.

Subdivision FBonded Medical Program rules

124ZT  Bonded Medical Program rules

Content of rules

             (1)  The Minister may, by legislative instrument, make rules (the Bonded Medical Program rules) prescribing matters:

                     (a)  required or permitted by this Part to be prescribed by the rules; or

                     (b)  necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Part.

             (2)  For the purposes of the definition of eligible location, the Bonded Medical Program rules:

                     (a)  must prescribe either or both of the following:

                              (i)  a regional, rural or remote area of Australia;

                             (ii)  an area of workforce shortage; and

                     (b)  may prescribe that an area is prescribed as an eligible location only in relation to a particular class of bonded participants.

             (3)  Without limiting subsection (1), the Bonded Medical Program rules may provide for any or all of the following matters:

                     (a)  the events that a bonded participant must notify to evidence compliance with conditions of the Bonded Medical Program;

                     (b)  the requirements for completing a return of service obligation;

                     (c)  the circumstances in which work which qualifies for completing a return of service obligation may be scaled;

                     (d)  the circumstances in which work will qualify for completing a return of service obligation (even if there is a change in an eligible location);

                     (e)  for the purposes of section 124ZF:

                              (i)  who is a member of a bonded participant’s family; and

                             (ii)  evidential requirements for establishing whether a bonded participant, or a member of the bonded participant’s family, has a medical condition; and

                            (iii)  evidential requirements for establishing that such a medical condition prevents a bonded participant from completing their return of service obligation;

                      (f)  in relation to a breach of the condition mentioned in paragraph 124ZG(1)(a) or (c)—the applicable rate of interest and how interest is to be applied;

                     (g)  the form in which, and the way in which, information or documents are to be provided to the Department.

             (4)  The Bonded Medical Program rules may provide for any matter mentioned in subsection (3) only in relation to a particular class of bonded participants.

             (5)  To avoid doubt, the Bonded Medical Program rules may not do the following:

                     (a)  create an offence or civil penalty;

                     (b)  provide powers of:

                              (i)  arrest or detention; or

                             (ii)  entry, search or seizure;

                     (c)  impose a tax;

                     (d)  set an amount to be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund under an appropriation in this Act;

                     (e)  directly amend the text of this Act.

Incorporation of other instruments

             (6)  For the purposes of subsection (2), the Bonded Medical Program rules may make provision in relation to a matter by applying, adopting or incorporating, with or without modification, any matter contained in an instrument or other writing:

                     (a)  as in force or existing at a particular time; or

                     (b)  as in force or existing from time to time.

             (7)  Subsection (6) has effect despite subsection 14(2) of the Legislation Act 2003.

Inconsistency of rules and regulations

             (8)  Bonded Medical Program rules that are inconsistent with the regulations have no effect to the extent of the inconsistency, but the rules are taken to be consistent with the regulations to the extent that the rules are capable of operating concurrently with the regulations.

Division 2Transitional arrangements

124ZU  Opt in process for participating in the Bonded Medical Program

             (1)  This section applies to a person who is:

                     (a)  a party to a deed of agreement with the Commonwealth (as represented by the Department) for funding of a place in the Bonded Medical Places Scheme, including a deed of agreement as varied; or

                     (b)  a party to a contract with the Commonwealth (as represented by the Department) for a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship, including a contract as varied (an MRBS participant).

             (2)  A person to whom subsection (1) applies may opt in to the Bonded Medical Program by advising the Department, in writing, that:

                     (a)  the person voluntarily wishes to opt in to the Program; and

                     (b)  the person voluntarily agrees to participate in the Program using a web portal maintained by the Department.

             (3)  Despite subsection (2), a person may not opt in to the Bonded Medical Program if:

                     (a)  section 19ABA applies in relation to the person; or

                     (b)  in the case of an MRBS participant—the person has not completed their course of study in medicine at an Australian university.

124ZV  Effect of opting in to the Bonded Medical Program—BMP participants

             (1)  If:

                     (a)  a person is a party to a deed of agreement with the Commonwealth (as represented by the Department) for funding of a place in the Bonded Medical Places Scheme (a BMP participant), including a deed of agreement as varied; and

                     (b)  the person advises the Department, in writing, that:

                              (i)  the person wishes to opt in to the Bonded Medical Program, as mentioned in section 124ZU; and

                             (ii)  the person voluntarily agrees to participate in the Program using a web portal maintained by the Department; and

                     (c)  the Secretary agrees, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Program;

then:

                     (d)  on the day the person becomes a bonded participant, the person’s deed of agreement ceases; and

                     (e)  on and after that day, the person is subject to the provisions of this Part.

             (2)  For the purposes of paragraph (1)(e):

                     (a)  the 3 year return of service obligation period is to be reduced by prior service completed in accordance with the provisions of the person’s deed of agreement; and

                     (b)  if the person entered into the deed of agreement during the period beginning on 1 January 2016 and ending on 31 December 2019, then, for the purposes of section 124ZF, a reference to “3 years” is to be read as a reference to “12 months”; and

                     (c)  paragraph 124ZG(1)(a) applies only if the person has not, on the day the person becomes a bonded participant, completed their course of study in medicine at an Australian university.

124ZW  Effect of opting in to the Bonded Medical Program—MRBS participants

             (1)  If:

                     (a)  a person is a party to a contract with the Commonwealth (as represented by the Department) for a Medical Rural Bonded Scholarship (an MRBS participant), including a contract as varied; and

                     (b)  the person advises the Department, in writing, that:

                              (i)  the person wishes to opt in to the Bonded Medical Program, as mentioned in section 124ZU; and

                             (ii)  the person voluntarily agrees to participate in the Program using a web portal maintained by the Department; and

                     (c)  the Secretary agrees, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Program;

then:

                     (d)  on the day the person becomes a bonded participant, the person’s contract ceases; and

                     (e)  on and after that day, the person is subject to the provisions of this Part.

             (2)  For the purposes of paragraph (1)(e):

                     (a)  the 3 year return of service obligation period is to be reduced by prior service completed in accordance with the provisions of the person’s contract; and

                     (b)  for the purposes of subparagraph 124ZH(2)(b)(i), the Commonwealth funded scholarship provided to the person is the scholarship amounts (as defined by the contract) paid to the person by the Commonwealth under the contract; and

                     (c)  paragraph 124ZG(1)(a) applies only if the person has not, on the day the person becomes a bonded participant, completed their course of study in medicine at an Australian university.

             (3)  To avoid doubt, nothing in this Part affects the application of section 19ABA in relation to a person if the person breached their contract before the day the Secretary agreed, in writing, to the person’s participation in the Bonded Medical Program, even if the breach is identified on or after that day.