As medical malpractice insurance specialists for physicians in Florida, we are constantly asked about coverage for locum tenens. It is easy to overlook the malpractice insurance implications of working as a locum tenens.
What does locum tenens mean?
Locum tenens literally means “place holder”. A locum tenens physician is one who temporarily works in the place of the regular physician while that physician is absent. A locum tenens doctor allows for continuity of patient care when the office has an increased patient load or if a physician is away due to CME, sabbatical, vacation or illness. His patients continue to be cared for and he does not lose his valuable revenue stream.
Why locum tenens?
Choosing to practice as a locum tenens can be attractive to a physician at any stage in his career. A first year physician can try out a variety of practice styles and geographic locations before committing to something permanent. Physicians in the middle of their career can test different areas and bridge the gap in income. Mature physicians can scale back their practices without fully retiring.
Don’t forget about medical malpractice insurance.
A locum tenens physician should carefully consider the medical malpractice insurance implications of accepting a temporary position.
Florida medical malpractice insurance policies can be endorsed to extend coverage to an approved locum tenens physician. By “approved”, we mean that the name insured doctor needs to notify his medical malpractice insurer of the name of the locum tenens doctor and the dates when he or she will be practicing in his place. Some medical malpractice insurance companies require an extensive review of the qualifications of the locum and some do not, as long as the locum is of the same specialty, has a valid Florida license and has an approved claims history.
Do I need to purchase malpractice insurance if I am going through a placement agency?
If you are securing a locum tenens through a placement organization, that company may well provide coverage for the locum tenens. This is one of the main things you should check if using a placement company.
“Tail” issues for locum tenens.
It is important to check the tail requirements if the main physician carries a claims-made medical malpractice insurance policy. There is no problem if the primary physician keeps continuous coverage. If, however, he drops it and fails to purchase a tail policy, there may not be coverage for the locum. And, when the primary physician retires, gets a free tail, and then re-enters practice as a locum tenens, there may be a problem with that free tail. Our office highly recommends that the doctor check with his medical malpractice carrier and secure approval, in writing, if he decides to go back into practice as a locum tenens after retirement.