The benefits that come with working as a locum tenens provider are plentiful —tremendous schedule flexibility, varied practice settings, unlimited travel opportunities, enhanced earning potential, and next to no administrative hassles. As an independent contractor, you have complete control over your own schedule. However, because locum tenens providers are self-employed, it also means your career doesn’t come with an employer-sponsored healthcare plan.
Fortunately, there’s no need to be apprehensive about finding your own health insurance. A recent survey by Hanover Research, conducted in partnership with Weatherby Healthcare’s parent company, CHG Healthcare, looked at the different options full-time locum tenens physicians use to secure their healthcare. Here are the top findings along with expert advice that can help you make educated health insurance decisions.
Exchange program under the Affordable Care Act
According to the study, 23% of locum tenens docs surveyed rely on their state’s insurance exchange marketplace for benefits, which include emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, lab services, chronic disease management, pediatric care, rehabilitative care, and prescription drug coverage. Consumers choose from different levels of coverage offered at varying rates. Compare plans and their associated premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs at HealthCare.gov.
Twenty-two percent of locum tenens docs surveyed said they sign on with their spouse’s plan. To utilize this option, you must be married to someone with access to employer-sponsored health insurance. Your spouse will probably need to contribute a higher premium for family coverage, but it will likely be less than an individual policy.
Another option, albeit temporary, is the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which requires employers to offer carry-over health and dental coverage for up to 18 months for you and your dependents when you leave your job. It may be costly, but it covers pre-existing conditions. More information on COBRA is available from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Some groups, such as, say, your alumni/ae association or church, may offer group rates for health insurance. If you’re over age 50, take a look at AARP.org. Also consider the National Association for the Self-Employed, which offers insurance-plan options.
Get individual assistance
Whether you have an option in mind or are still undecided, getting expert advice will make buying your own insurance easier, more affordable, and more likely to best suit your needs. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has good information on choosing the right agent. We spoke with an NAIC representative who offered the following four tips:
- Talk with a professional. Insurance agents and brokers are regulated by the state, and up-to-date on the latest laws, rules, regulations, and coverage options. They are also held liable for the various recommendations, so you can feel assured you are getting trustworthy advice.
- Know the difference between an independent and captive agents. Some agents or brokers deal with a variety of companies and types of policies, and offer a sort of one-stop-shop for all your insurance needs. Others are captive agents, so they are more invested in the one product and carrier they represent.
- Look locally. There is a button through HealthCare.gov called “Find Local Help.” These agents and brokers have gone through the process to ensure they are knowledgeable on the Affordable Care Act and the different laws. They have been vetted by both the state and the exchange.
- Revisit your choice annually. It is important to shop around and speak to an expert when you first purchase your healthcare insurance, but it is equally important to reexamine your choice each year. Each time your plan comes up for renewal look to make sure things haven’t changed in the plan, because there may be a better option out there.
Though you are responsible for finding your own health insurance as an independent contractor, working as a locum tenens provider does offer other financial perks. Check out this article on the tax benefits for independent contractors for more information.
What are your tips for finding affordable health insurance for locum tenens providers? Share in the comments below.