Benefit plans and arrangements (such as health, dental, retirement plan, disability coverage life insurance, etc.) are frequently provided to employees and infrequently provided to independent contractors. Whether a physician who is working part time will receive benefits will vary from employer to employer. A threshold issue, however, is whether a part-time worker is even eligible to receive certain benefits. Many health, dental and visions plans require employees to work a minimum of 30 hours a week on a regular basis, thus excluding part-time employees who work fewer hours. For retirement and pension plans, employees typically must work a minimum of 1,000 hours to be eligible to participate.
Explore This IssueNovember 2012
Even if a physician’s employment agreement provides that the physician may receive benefits from the employer, the agreement may also provide that such a provision is subject to the terms and conditions of the particular benefit plans or arrangements.
Professional Liability (Malpractice) Insurance
While some practices or hospitals pay for a part-time physician’s malpractice insurance costs, many shift some or all of these costs to the physician. Many insurance providers offer malpractice insurance plans for physicians practicing part time, with reduced premiums and reduced coverage. When negotiating a compensation package, payment for malpractice insurance should be considered. A physician must also be aware of what is excluded from coverage. For example, if Dr. A works part time with ABC Medical Group and part time with XYZ Medical Group, and ABC Medical Group provides malpractice coverage for Dr. A, it cannot be assumed that such coverage will cover Dr. A’s work with XYZ Medical Group. Dr. A may need a separate policy for work performed through XYZ Medical Group.
Sharing in the responsibility for call coverage becomes an issue regarding physicians working a reduced schedule. Full-time physicians accept the fact that they will be responsible for some call coverage. However, this is not the sentiment shared by many part-time physicians and becomes an area of significant negotiation in the employment or independent contractor agreement. Some part-time physicians are willing to take reduced call coverage commensurate with their reduced amount of time in the office. For instance, in the example described above with the six-physician practice, the half-time physician may take call one in every 11 nights and weekends, while the five full-time physicians take call two in every 11 nights and weekends.
Alternatively, if a practice has sufficient call coverage with its full-time physicians, the practice may permit the part-time physician to forego call responsibility. However, in that case, the practice may reduce the physician’s compensation to account for the lack of call coverage.
Even when a physician is only employed on a part-time basis, the employer may nevertheless want to protect its patient base by including restrictive covenants like noncompetition and nonsolicitation clauses in the physician’s employment agreement. A part-time physician must be careful that the restrictive covenants do not jeopardize his or her other career objectives. For example, in the example described above, with Dr. A working part time for both ABC Medical Group and XYZ Medical Group, a noncompetition clause in Dr. A’s employment agreement with ABC Medical Group could prohibit Dr. A from working at another practice, including XYZ Medical Group.