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Locum tenens is one of the hottest emerging trends in healthcare. Locum tenens (Latin for “place holder”) describes physicians who work as independent contractors for various healthcare facilities. These physicians are not employed by the facility but are hired to fill in when needed. While some locum tenens physicians travel across the country, others may only need to travel to one or two different sites during their careers.

This article will uncover the benefits of being a locum tenens and the unique disability insurance needs they require. 

Why Are Locum Tenens Increasing In Popularity?

In the United States, the origin of locum tenens (LT) dates back to the 1970s when physicians from Utah received funding to provide care to some underserved areas of the country. The first official locum tenens staffing agency opened in 1979. Since then, LT staffing has grown exponentially. It’s estimated that the industry will reach an astounding $4.7 billion in 2022, a year-over-year increase of 7%.

Why Hospitals & Medical Facilities Choose Locum Tenens 

In the past decade, the population of the U.S. has increased by 7.4%, which equates to nearly 23 million people. 

The demand for locum tenens has snowballed in recent years because of the aging population and an increasing number of people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Moreover, locum tenens helped healthcare facilities treat high volumes of COVID-19 patients and address clinician burnout. 

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor showed that more than 2 million jobs in health care and social assistance were unfilled across the U.S. This shortage is expected to worsen as demand for physicians continues to grow faster than the supply.

The difficulty of finding qualified physicians for these positions has led many hospitals, health systems, and other healthcare facilities to turn to locum tenens staffing agencies 

to fill their staffing needs at all levels of experience—from brand new attendings to more experienced physicians.

This trend shows no slowing, with AMN Healthcare’s 2022 Survey of Locum Tenens Staffing Trends revealing that 88% of healthcare facilities used locum tenens providers sometime during the last 12 months.

Why Physicians Choose Locum Tenens 

Locum tenens is a way for many providers to practice medicine without burnout. It offers a flexible schedule, the ability to increase skill sets, different work/travel experiences, and great pay.

Most locum assignments last between two weeks and two months, depending upon the medical facility’s needs. Working full-time in one facility can be limiting and exhausting—primarily if you regularly work long hours, nights, and weekends. With locum tenens jobs, you have access to numerous facilities and different types of assignments, so you don’t have to do the same thing every day. 

As a locum tenens physician, you can choose which assignments you want to accept and when you want to work. LT work is ideal for those who want to travel, want to try out a position or geographical area before committing to a full-time employed position, need extra income, or want the option to schedule time off whenever desired.

Unique Disability Insurance Needs Of Locum Tenens

As a locum tenens position is unique, so are the disability insurance needs. When a hospital or clinic employs you, your employer typically provides disability insurance for you and your family members. 

However, suppose you’re working as a locum tenens physician and not employed by the hospital or clinic. In that case, your temporary “employer” isn’t required to provide disability coverage for you as you are considered “part-time/nomadic.” 

Suppose something happens to you, and you cannot work as a physician due to injury or illness. In that case, you will have no income. 

While some carriers now offer LT coverage, each differs slightly in determining the amount of coverage and riders available.

Key Factors Carriers Look For When Determining Coverage

While this is not a one size fits all list, providers analyze these main categories when determining LT coverage options. It’s always important to connect with a specialized insurance broker to get accurate information about your situation. 

  • State of Residence vs. State of Employment (differs by carrier): Living in one state and working in another can cause the cost and design of disability insurance coverage to vary significantly.
  • Timing of entering locum tenens: You may not qualify for the same benefit rates as an attending that you would have qualified for as a resident/fellow. There are three scenarios that carries are currently considering when quantifying your monthly benefit:
    1. LT work straight from training
    2. LT work from a previous W2 position
    3. LT work for several years

As a locum tenens, getting individual coverage is of the utmost importance. You can hold these policies for the life of your career and take them with you from job to job. In the event you need to go on claim, your benefit would come to you tax-free.

Why Work With A Broker Over An Agent

The main difference between an agent and a broker is that agents tend to work for specific carriers and are incentivized to sell a specific product. However, brokers are genuinely working for you, the client. Brokers are appointed with multiple carriers and are not incentivized to sell one product over another.

At PearsonRavitz, we know how confusing and overwhelming disability insurance can feel. To help you get acquainted with the industry and frequently used terms, we’ve put together a Disability Insurance 101 to help guide you through the process.

When you’re ready to explore your policy options, you can book a consultation with one of our brokers to talk through your unique needs.