The healthcare landscape is changing.
Physicians are increasingly leaving private practice and opting to be directly employed by a hospital. According to the Physician Practice Benchmark Survey conducted by the American Medical Association (AMA), 2018 marked the first year in which there were more employed physicians (47.4%) than physician owners (45.9%).
Not only are experienced doctors opting to be employed, but young doctors are also seeing the benefits of joining a hospital or healthcare system. There are several factors that are influencing the trend away from private practice, and physician benefits are among the most influential. Healthcare systems that have established a competitive compensation and benefits package are more likely to attract new physicians and retain seasoned physicians in practice longer.
If you are currently job hunting or considering moving from private practice to salaried employment, you should review the physician benefits package you are offered as carefully as you do the salary and bonuses. The first step is to find out what benefits physicians usually receive. The following are the essential employee benefits for doctors in 2019:
1. Health insurance
As an employee, a physician is insured by the health insurance plan offered by their employer. There are several types of coverage that most employers normally offer, which include:
Basic health insurance is a cash reimbursement service that can help you pay for some, but not all, types of medical services. Major medical insurance, on the other hand, is designed to cover everything from routine check-ups to major catastrophic events.
Group health insurance plans are usually purchased by healthcare organizations and then offered to their employees. Therefore, these kinds of policies provide coverage to a group of employees, who get to receive insurance at a lower cost because the insurer’s risk is spread across several policyholders.
2. Group life insurance
If you have children or beneficiaries who are depending on your future income, you should choose a healthcare organization that offers life insurance in their benefits package. Nonetheless, many physicians consider purchasing additional life insurance separate from their employer, depending on their circumstances.
3. Group disability insurance
Just like with other professionals, physicians are at risk of getting a disabling injury or illness. It is, therefore, important for them to have disability insurance to ensure that they are covered in the event that they are incapacitated by an injury.
Many employers offer group short-term disability coverage and, at times, long-term coverage, partly at the doctor’s expense. If you have a long-term disability insurance policy, however, do not cancel it after you start working for an employer that offers group coverage. Your policy will offer you a higher monthly benefit for a longer time with fewer exceptions and exclusions.
4. Student loan repayment assistance
If there is one significant problem that plagues many physicians, it has to be medical school debt. To attract new physicians and retain experienced ones, hospitals and healthcare organizations offer student loan debt assistance in their physician benefits package. This option can particularly come in handy if you are willing to work in medically underserved areas, also known as designated health professional shortage areas (HPSAs).
Benefits vary, but on average, you will receive support for as long as you’ll be in service. You should note, however, that some employers usually require that the student loan debt assistance they may have offered be repaid should you stop working for the organization within a stipulated period.
5. Retirement plan
Physician retirement planning has important implications, and unplanned late or early physician retirement can have dire consequences. If employed by a hospital, you will probably have access to a 403(b) retirement account, which is a retirement account that is usually offered by non-profit entities.
In addition to the 403(b) account, your employer may also have a 401(a) account and most likely offer a 457(b) account as well. Note that not all non-profit employers offer 457(b) accounts. If you are already maxing out the 403B9b), it is important to check whether the employer you intend to work for offers the 457(b) plan in their physician benefits package.
6. Vacation policy
Hospitals should invest just as much work and care in retaining quality employees, as they do hiring new ones. One way to do just that is to include paid vacation time or personal time to their vacation policy. Practices that do not include this benefit in their employee benefits package are usually at a distinct disadvantage.
When choosing an employer, you should find out if they have a vacation policy in place. You want to choose an employer that provides their staff with much-needed time-off. Typically, the number of days range for 25 to 35 days, though they may vary by length of service. Most employers opt to provide a single bank of paid time off that can be utilized for whatever purpose, i.e. for vacation, holidays, personal days, continuing medical education, or sick leave.
7. CME allowance
Physicians are required to improve their knowledge and keep up their skills through Continuing Medical Education (CME). As an employed physician, a CME allowance can be an excellent opportunity to increase your knowledge and broaden your skills and obtain free training.
Luckily, most employers are usually willing to assist physicians to pay for CME. Since there is a small percentage of employers that do not offer CME allowances in their contracts, it is important that you check whether the organization you are interested in working for offers it in their benefits package.
8. Maternity leave
According to the AMA, 40% of medical residents plan to have a child at some point during their training. The amount of paid time-off those residents are usually given to take care of their infants varies widely from one residency program to another.
The Family and Medical Leave Act obligates employers to give at least 12 weeks of unpaid family leave once an employee has worked for twelve months. When choosing an employer, it is important that you choose one that not only includes paid maternity leave in their employee benefits package but also gives more time off.
9. Relocation package
This is one of the essential employee benefits for doctors in 2019. If your next job involves relocating from your current location to another, this is a benefit that you should look for in the benefits package your prospective employer is offering.
Many employers help to cover the costs of moving household goods and offer a travel allowance. In addition to covering relocation expenses, some employers also offer temporary housing allowances. Some employers also provide guaranteed purchase of a home if the physician does not sell it within a stipulated period.
Competitive employee benefits for doctors can, at times, mean the difference between hiring talented physicians and losing those physicians to competitors.
Therefore, hospitals and healthcare facilities that are looking to hire physicians should ensure that they have the above essential employee benefits in their package to attract new physicians and retain current ones.
As a physician, whether you are considering practice opportunities available in metropolitan areas or in underserved areas, it is important to evaluate what the employer has to offer in their employee benefits package.