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Posted on
August 11, 2023

Health Insurance for Locum Tenens Physicians

Healthcare professionals spend their days and nights working to offer the best possible care for their patients. It can be surprising to learn that doctors sometimes struggle to secure the same level of care for themselves. Thankfully, there are avenues locum tenens physicians can pursue to attain quality health insurance at a reasonably affordable rate.

What to Know for Health Insurance as a Locum Tenens Physician

Ironically enough, physicians can sometimes struggle to access quality healthcare. Locum tenens positions traditionally fall into the freelance or 1099 designation. This means they don’t technically have an employer and thus don’t have access to employer-provided health insurance. Doctors who choose to take a locum tenens position will need to do some extra legwork to ensure they’re covered in a health emergency.

List of Healthcare Options

There are a variety of healthcare options available outside of employer-sponsored plans. Make sure you know the pros and cons of each option so you can choose the right locum tenens health insurance plan for your needs.

Family - The easiest way for many locum tenens professionals to access health insurance is through their family or spouse. If your spouse or domestic partner has an employer-sponsored health insurance plan, you are usually eligible for coverage under their plan, although specific qualifiers exist for individual insurance carriers. Healthcare coverage under a parent’s insurance plan may be possible for new grads, but this benefit ends when you turn 26.

COBRA - COBRA, also known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, may be an option for some locum tenens doctors. When you leave a job with employer-sponsored plans, you can stay on that same insurance plan for up to 18 months, with an optional extension of another 18 months. This means COBRA is only an option for a maximum of three years total.

The other notable downside to COBRA plans is the very high premiums. COBRA offers the same plan your previous employer provided but without the employer-covered portion of the cost. That means you’ll be paying the full amount - which can often total thousands of dollars per month. Because of the exorbitant rates, COBRA is not suggested as a long-term health insurance option.

Health-Sharing Plans or Short-Term Insurance - When researching health insurance options, you may come across Health Sharing Plans. These plans are not actual health insurance - instead, they are a type of group savings pool that can help cover costs. These plans are not beholden to preexisting condition laws or coverage regulations.

That means you can have payment denied for various common preexisting conditions. It also means many common expenses, such as maternity care, prescription drugs, or mental health care, are not covered.

Short-Term Insurance Plans - As the name suggests, short-term health insurance plans offer coverage for limited amounts of time. They usually have low premiums and very high deductibles. They are also not required to cover preexisting conditions or everyday medical events such as maternity care, prescription drugs, or mental health care.

Private Insurance - Private insurance is by far the most popular option for locum tenens providers after spousal healthcare coverage. Private insurance plans are available through a state-run healthcare marketplace. They are usually more expensive than employer-sponsored plans but much cheaper than COBRA plans. They cannot deny you coverage due to preexisting conditions, often do not have lifetime limits, and usually cover most medical events and needs, including maternity care, prescription drugs, and mental health care.

How to Get Set Up for Health Insurance

If you’re interested in using private health insurance, you may be wondering where to start. There are two ways to purchase private healthcare insurance. You can use a broker who will guide you through the process. You have to pay them a fee, but they can help you navigate the many private insurance plan options to find one that fits your needs.

However, many people opt to purchase coverage through their state’s health exchange. Selecting your state on healthcare.gov should provide a list of healthcare plans you can choose from. Purchasing a plan is simple and can be done directly through the website.

Cost of Self-Employed Health Insurance

Private insurance plans are almost always more expensive than employer-provided health insurance but significantly cheaper than COBRA coverage. The average monthly cost of a state’s health exchange plan is $477 a month. When selecting a plan, remember that you can also get coverage for your spouse or children through the healthcare marketplace.

There are three tiers of private health insurance - Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Bronze plans offer less coverage and are usually high deductible, with low premiums. Gold offers the highest level of coverage with higher premiums and lower deductibles. As you may have guessed, Silver plans fall in the middle.

Plans should be selected based on your coverage needs. Gold plans are probably the best bet if you have a chronic health condition, are planning to have a child, or otherwise anticipate utilizing your health insurance coverage often. If you’re reasonably healthy and don’t anticipate using your healthcare plan for anything but preventative care, Bronze plans may be a better option.

Health Insurance Tax Considerations

You’ll be glad to know that private health insurance premiums are tax-deductible, unlike employer-sponsored plans. COBRA and short-term health insurance premiums can also be deducted when you file your taxes. This is especially helpful as many 1099 workers already plan to file an itemized deductible.

Learn More with Caliber

If you're looking to start your journey as a locum tenens healthcare provider, Caliber can help. Unlike traditional locum tenens agencies, our specialty-focused recruiting teams understand your specific requirements, qualifications, and care scenarios. Our expertise allows us to advocate on your behalf to secure positions where you'll thrive. Contact our team today to get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do providers want to work locum tenens?

Many healthcare providers choose to work in locum tenens roles because of the increased salary, travel opportunities, and flexible schedule. For providers who want to live in different areas and enjoy experiencing new work environments, locum tenens jobs are a great opportunity.

Why are locums paid so much?

Locum tenens positions are popular in part because of their high pay. One reason for their higher salaries is their 1099 designation. This means they do not have employer-sponsored health insurance and must pay costly premiums themselves.

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