consequences of legal action, a medical emergency of your own, and business difficulties. Having a well-defined protection plan can give you confidence that you can practice your chosen profession without putting your family or future in jeopardy.
Medical professionals are caught financially between rising premiums for malpractice insurance and fixed reimbursements from managed-care programs, and you may find yourself evaluating a variety of approaches to providing that protection. Some physicians also carry insurance that helps protect them against unintentional billing errors or omissions. Remember that in addition to potential malpractice claims, you also face the same potential liabilities as other business owners. You might consider an umbrella policy as well as coverage that protects you against business-related exposures such as fire, theft, employee dishonesty, or business interruption, up to the policy limits.
Your income depends on your ability to function, especially if you’re a solo practitioner, and you may have fixed overhead costs that would need to be covered if your ability to work were impaired. One choice you’ll face is how early in your career to purchase disability insurance. Age plays a role in determining premiums, and you may qualify for lower premiums if you are relatively young. When evaluating disability income policies, medical professionals should pay special attention to how the policy defines disability. Look for a liberal definition such as “own occupation,” which can help ensure that you’re covered in case you can’t practice in your chosen specialty.
To protect your business if you become disabled, consider business overhead expense insurance that can help cover routine expenses such as payroll, utilities, and equipment rental. An insurance professional can help evaluate your needs.
Practice management and business
Is a group practice more advantageous than operating solo, taking in a junior colleague, or working for a managed-care network? If you have an independent practice, should you own or rent your
office space? What are the pros and cons of taking over an existing practice compared to starting one from scratch? If you’re part of a group practice, is the practice structured financially to accommodate the needs of all partners? Does running a “concierge” or retainer practice appeal to you? If you’re considering expansion, how should you finance it?
Questions like these are rarely simple and should be done in the context of an overall financial plan that takes into account both your personal and professional goals.
Many physicians have created processes and products for their own practices, and have then licensed their creations to a corporation. If you are among them, you may need help with legal and financial concerns related to patents, royalties, and the like. And if you have your own practice, you may find that cash flow management, maximizing return on working capital, hiring and managing employees, and financing equipment purchases and maintenance become increasingly complex issues as your practice develops.
You may have to make tradeoffs between maximizing current income from your practice and maximizing its value as an asset for eventual sale. Also, timing the sale of a practice and minimizing taxes on its proceeds can be complex. If you’re planning a business succession, or considering changing practices or even careers, you might benefit from help with evaluating the financial consequences of those decisions.
Estate planning, which can both potentially minimize taxes and further your personal and philanthropic goals, probably will become important to you at some point. Options you might consider include:
• Life insurance
• Buy-sell agreements for your practice
• Charitable trusts
You’ve spent a long time acquiring and maintaining expertise in your field, and your patients rely on your specialized knowledge. Doesn’t it make sense to treat your finances with the same level of care?