Health Insurance and the Locum Tenens Physician

By Steve Barrett
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Some physicians savor the flexibility, diverse workplaces and other aspects of locum tenens work. Life as an independent contractor, however, raises questions about securing good health insurance in the absence of an employer-sponsored plan.

Hanover Research and CHG Healthcare, parent company of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based locum tenens staffing agency Weatherby Healthcare, conducted a survey that found these self-employed providers rely on a range of coverage options.

A couple of key findings from the survey:

  • About 23% of respondents are insured via their states’ insurance exchange marketplaces under the ACA. Services and costs vary by coverage level.
  • An additional 22% of locum tenens physicians rely on their spouses’ plans — typically less costly than an individual policy.

Other options for locum tenens physicians include COBRA, under which employers must offer employees who leave the job up to 18 months of carry-over coverage, as well as finding insurance through certain professional groups and other organizations, including the National Association for the Self-Employed. COBRA is not cheap, but it does cover pre-existing conditions, Weatherby Healthcare notes, and some organizations and associations offer group rates.

An estimated 40,000 physicians in the U.S. participate in domestic locum tenens work, according to Physician’s Weekly.