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Demystifying Employee Benefits for Locums Physicians

Demystifying Employee Benefits for Locums Physicians

Contributed by: Dr. Stephanie E. Freeman

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Working as a locums doctor gives you more freedom and flexibility, working when and where you want, often for a higher rate. However, what you gain in increased pay and control as a locums physician, you lose in terms of employer-sponsored benefits. As opposed to being employed by a hospital or clinic, when you work as a locums physician, you work as an independent contractor. That means YOU are responsible for obtaining your own benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and retirement plan.

The thought of obtaining these items may seem daunting to physicians. In fact, it is one of the main concerns I hear from physicians who are considering locums. However, this should not keep you from making the career change to locums. With just a little bit of research and planning, you can obtain your own insurance and retirement plans, making sure you and your family are adequately covered.

The first thing to know is you don’t have to figure all of this out on your own. There are experts and brokers for all types of benefits who can point you in the right direction. Talk to other locums doctors about how they handle these things, and ask if they work with a professional they would recommend. Here are some of my favorite tips about finding your own coverage.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Health insurance is always the number one concern of locums physicians, because it seems so confusing. With an employer plan you may have a couple of options to choose from, but there are lots of different options when looking for your own insurance. There are many questions around where to get a policy, what kind of coverage, how to enroll, and how much it will cost.

There are several ways to purchase a health insurance policy. The best way is to go through the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), which has open enrollment November 1-December 15 each year. Go to www.healthcare.gov to easily compare plans and enroll. Even though open enrollment is November 1-December 15, 2017, you may still purchase a plan outside these dates if you have a qualifying event such as changing jobs and losing other coverage, getting married, or having a baby.

Another way to purchase health insurance is to use an insurance broker, who understands the nuances of different plans and can help you choose which plan fits your needs and budget best. It is also possible to contact insurance companies directly.

LIFE AND DISABILITY INSURANCE

In addition to health insurance, as a locums physician, you must obtain your own life insurance and your own disability insurance. Life insurance is often offered by the same companies that you have car or home owners insurance through. Your agent should be able to guide you on how much insurance to buy.

As an independent contractor, workers compensation does not apply to you if you are injured on the job while working as a locums. Therefore, you must have you own disability coverage, and an emergency fund to cover a minimum of three months living expenses.

There are two types of disability insurance policies: short term and long term. Short term disability lasts 2-3 months and typically has a waiting period of 2-6 weeks before benefits are paid. Long term disability pays benefits after 3 months and can last until the age of 65 depending on the injury. With the increased pay of working locums setting up an emergency fund should be a priority to cover costs while waiting for benefits to kick in.

RETIREMENT PLANS

Locums physicians must also obtain their own retirement plans. There are several retirement options available for locums physicians. These include Traditional and Roth IRAs, SEP-IRA, Solo-401(k), SIMPLE IRA. Each of these retirement plans has their own contribution limit, which varies yearly, as well as tax advantages and disadvantages. Finding a financial planner who can understand your goals and identify the most advantageous options is the easiest way to ensure a secure retirement.

Although obtaining your own benefits can seem like a daunting challenge, it need not be. With the right team of professionals and a little planning, you can choose the coverage that fits your needs best, often with just a few phone calls. I also recommend working with an agency who is able to help you understand what you will need.

While they don’t provide benefits directly, as part of their concierge services, Floyd Lee Locums, has assembled a panel of experts who work with physicians and understand locums. They can refer you to CPAs, financial planners, and insurance brokers that can help you understand your options and choose the plan that is right for you.

Contact Floyd Lee Locums today at www.FloydLeeLocums.com

Stephanie E. Freeman, MD, earned her Medical Degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. She completed her Internal Medicine Residency at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and her Critical Care Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Freeman also completed a Geriatrics fellowship at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. She obtained her Masters of Business Administration at Auburn University.

Learn more at DrStephanieICU.com