Last Updated: Jul 3, 2015
By Angela Boateng, Esq., PAMED's Legal Counsel
With more than 25 years of work life left in my career, I am far from retirement. Many of our physician members, however, can see retirement on the horizon and for some others, retirement has finally arrived.
Physicians contemplating this particular capstone in their careers have a number of things to consider. In addition to how you will spend your well-earned free time, you may also be thinking about what to do about your medical license, medical malpractice insurance, and medical records. And, even though these issues may be the tip of the iceberg (and maybe not even high on your list of priorities) when it comes to the many retirement issues you will need to think about, they are definitely still worth your time and attention.
Your Medical License and Retirement
Retiring Pennsylvania physicians have the daunting task of figuring out what they want to do with their license to practice. There are a few options available and each option has its own conditions and requirements.
Keep your active license: You may decide that you want to keep your Pennsylvania license active after you retire. Why? The reasons why physicians choose this option are myriad. But, from what I’ve learned through conversations with physicians taking this step, some believe that they might return to practice at some point in time and do not want to go through the “hassle” of meeting the requirements to reactivate their license. Others, although technically “retired” from their day-to-day practice, plan to (eventually) consult or moonlight at their convenience.
If you decide to keep your active license, you must meet all of the current licensure requirements:
- Complete the biennial application and pay required fee to maintain your license
- Meet continuing medical education (CME) requirement
- Fulfil mandatory child abuse recognition and reporting training, as a condition of license renewal (Note: PAMED developed online training to meet this requirements and is awaiting approval from the state. We will let physicians know when this is available.)
- Maintain medical professional liability insurance, including participation in Mcare
If you know that you want to keep your active license, but will not practice at all, you may qualify for an exemption from the state’s medical professional liability insurance requirements. To confirm your exemption from the malpractice requirement, complete the Mcare Declaration of Compliance form. Instructions for completing the form are available. You may also contact Mcare by phone to request this information (717) 783-3770, Ext. 280.
Complete the Mcare Declaration of Compliance form to let them know your status (e.g., you would like to maintain an active license; however, you will not practice medicine in the state). Mcare will let you know whether or not you will be required to maintain insurance.
Get an active-retired license: Pennsylvania physicians can also apply for an active-retired license. With this license physicians are only allowed to write prescriptions for themselves and immediate family members who live with them (spouse, children, parents, siblings).
Physicians with an active-retired license are required to do all of the following:
- Complete the biennial application and submit the required fee to maintain the active-retired license
- Fulfil the mandatory child abuse recognition and reporting training, as a condition of license renewal.
Active-retired physicians are not required to have medical professional liability insurance, participate in Mcare, or meet 100 credit CME requirement.
Go to inactive status: Ah! Total state of retirement relaxation! Enjoy time with your grandchildren, travel around the world, do whatever you like…except practice medicine.
When your Pennsylvania medical license is inactive status, you mean business. You are no longer licensed to practice medicine in the state, which means that:
- You do not have to complete the biennial application and required fee to maintain your license
- You do not have to complete the CME requirements
- You do not have to complete the mandatory child abuse recognition and reporting training
- You do not have to maintain medical professional liability insurance or participate in Mcare
Medical Malpractice Insurance—Tail Coverage
As you can see from above, whether or not you maintain medical malpractice insurance depends on your license status.
Pennsylvania, however, requires tail coverage for physicians who cancel their claims-made coverage. The tail covers losses and expenses occurring during a claims-made coverage period. The one-time fee paid for the tail coverage would protect the physician indefinitely for any claim made after the cancellation, termination, or non-renewal of the claims-made coverage in Pennsylvania.
The physician’s malpractice carrier is required to offer tail coverage upon cancellation, termination, or non-renewal of claims-made coverage. Physicians must purchase tail coverage to be in compliance with state law, but they are not required to purchase it from their current malpractice insurance provider; physicians can shop around for alternative malpractice carriers.
Contact your medical malpractice provider for details.
And, you thought your obligation to medicine was done once you retired. Not so fast. You may still have an obligation from the state and your medical malpractice carrier regarding your patient medical records.
State regulations require MDs to maintain medical records for at least seven years from the last date of service for adults. For minor patients, medical records must be kept at least seven years from the last date of service and one year after the patient turns 18, whichever is longer.
Regulations for DOs are almost identical, except that the extended period of time for minors is two years after the patient turns 18.
You should notify your patients when you are retiring. Generally, it is good practice for the physician to send a letter to patients to notify them of his or her impending departure.
If you are part of a group practice, the group may retain the records. Upon the patient’s request, the group should provide the patient with a copy or transfer a copy to the patient’s new physician. Medical records that are not forwarded to a new physician should be retained by the group practice.
If you are a solo practitioner, you can keep the medical records in a safe place on your own.
Or, you can make arrangements for another practice to take care of your patients and/or their medical records. Preparations may also be made for a local hospital or another legally authorized individual to store the medical records.
In any event, work with your attorney to ensure that any agreement reached with the practice, hospital or authorized individual will allow you access to medical records in the event that access is warranted.
Again, when you are ready to turn your retirement plans into a concrete plan, these are just a few items you should consider. As always, if you have questions about any of the information in the blog, please feel free to contact me.