4 Things to Know about Locum Tenens and Malpractice Insurance

Being sued for medical malpractice is part and parcel with being a doctor. That is why physicians carry medical malpractice insurance. An insurance policy is put in place to protect a doctor’s personal assets in the event of an expensive lawsuit. In terms of locum tenens, doctors must be covered by insurance one way or another.

How a locum is covered depends on the arrangements made with staffing agencies. This is important inasmuch as locums have to consider their insurance needs when deciding which staffing agencies to work with. The locum that decides to pursue all his or her contracts independent of agency help is fully responsible for medical malpractice insurance.

1. Who Provides Insurance

A decade ago it was normal for staffing agencies to require locums to obtain their own insurance. But that model gets complicated with locums working at so many facilities. Furthermore, insurance requirements vary from one state to the next.

To overcome the complications, staffing agencies began providing insurance on behalf of their doctors. Doing so allows them to purchase tailor-made policies perfectly suited to the states they are active in and the facilities they recruit for.

As an added benefit, agency-paid medical malpractice insurance is a perk for doctors. It makes an agency’s recruiting efforts a whole lot easier too. As for doctors, it reduces their expenses as independent contractors. Paid insurance is essentially a pay raise.

2. Occurrence vs. Claims-Made Policies

Locum tenens physicians in search of staffing agencies that offer paid insurance need to keep in mind the difference between occurrence and claims-made policies. Neither one is inherently better or worse than the other, but doctors do have their preferences.

An occurrence policy covers claims against the doctor regardless of when these are made. A claims-made policy only covers claims made during the policy term. So let’s say a locum works on a particular assignment for six months. A claims-made policy would only cover claims made against that doctor for the term of the contract, as the policy only covers that doctor at that facility for the same period.

It is important that claims-made insurance be supplemented by tail insurance. A supplemental tail policy covers claims for a certain amount of time following the conclusion of a claims-made term.

3. Physician Responsibilities to Staffing Agencies

As is usually the case with insurance, companies providing medical malpractice coverage require physicians to be forthcoming and transparent at all times. Should any adverse patient outcomes occur that could potentially lead to a claim, the doctor is required to inform his or her staffing agency.

The biggest and best staffing agencies have their own legal and insurance departments capable of handling such matters. The doctor’s agency would investigate the matter and, if necessary, coordinate representation between its own legal team and the doctor’s attorney.

Failure to report adverse outcomes could jeopardize a doctor’s case. It could also lead to liability on the doctor’s part. So it is important for doctors to be on the up-and-up at all times.

4. Claim Resolution and Time Frame

As a general rule, the majority of malpractice claims made against doctors are resolved within a couple of years. It is rare for cases to extend beyond five years. Doctors are expected to fully cooperate throughout the entire process.

Some staffing agencies will provide full legal defense whether a claim is settled out of court or goes to litigation. They might even pay travel costs, court costs, etc. But there are no guarantees. Staffing agencies differ in the way they handle claims based on their arrangements with insurance providers.