Should You Update Your Medical License While Retiring?

Many physicians who retire from the field sell their practice or leave their job, believing they’ve hung up their stethoscope for good – but after a few months of rest, they crave the more active engagement of their old lifestyle.

Is it necessary for a doctor to maintain an active medical license after retirement? The simple answer is “no.” If you are retired, why worry about the cost and hassle of maintaining one or more medical licenses? Many states mandate mind-numbing paperwork, a large fee, and 20 hours or more of continuing medical education (CME) per year for license renewal.

Is there any chance you’ll return to practice after you retire? If you let your license lapse, renewing it in many states can take up to six months or more. State requirements differ and are determined by the status of the license and the length of time since it was last renewed. You might also have to pay lapsed or penalty fees.

Many physicians keep their licenses for 2-5 years and keep their board certifications up to date in case they return to practice.

The expense and the trouble

If those requirements don’t make you nervous, some medical license renewals will. The Florida Medical Board, for example, requires continuing education credits in controlled substance prescribing, domestic violence, human trafficking, and medical mistakes. Finding these CME courses, let alone completing (and paying for them), can be difficult.

While most states will accept a statement (subject to audit) stating that you have completed the required CME, Florida requires copies of each CME certificate! Every two years, you must upload to the official website all 38 required hours of CME, including all the individual courses listed above.

Florida also requires an annual $250 payment to its Neurological Injury Compensation Association for birth-related injuries. Even a neurologist, who is licensed in Florida but does not practice in the state, is required to pay this annual fee.

Attempting to maintain doctor licensure may result in additional complications, such as renewing fingerprints as requested by the Florida Medical Board. If you do not pay the $42 “fingerprint retention fee” every five years, you must re-scan your fingerprints or submit hard copies.

Professional liability insurance is another cost of maintaining an active license. If you have an active medical license in Massachusetts, for example, you must carry malpractice insurance with a minimal level policy of $100,000/$300,000, even if you don’t practice!

Medical licenses no longer are eligible as business deductions on your tax return if you have retired. These costs add up.

Your licensure is no longer required once you have retired from the practice of medicine. It’s a significant time-sink and financial drain. But before you throw away the renewal form, you must answer one crucial question: “Do you think I’ll return to clinical practice?”

After-retirement malpractice insurance

While an active medical license is required, it is usually insufficient to return to practice. Care providers should also need malpractice insurance additionally. If you have been out of practice for two years or more, getting insurance may be IMPOSSIBLE. Do not fall into that trap!

Locum tenens

If you’re ready to retire but want to go back to work, locum tenens can help. Each assignment resets the malpractice insurance clock by two years. Staffing agencies will gladly pay malpractice insurance and license fees for locum tenens work.

Locums will supplement your retirement income while preserving your physician identity. Request to speak with a locum tenens physician on a peer-to-peer basis. If you try locums and enjoy them, you might never want to retire!

As a doctor, you have worked tirelessly to obtain and keep your medical license. While there are costs associated with maintaining your license, these are far outweighed by the advantages of doing so. Without a license, you will be unable to perform medical-legal work, file reviews, or IMEs. Having a license will make you a much more appealing candidate for the dozens of non-clinical opportunities.

For physicians who have committed their lives to their careers, retirement represents a significant change in status. According to the American Medical Association, many retired physicians keep their medical license for two to five years in case they return to practice. We wholeheartedly agree with that advice because medical licenses are so difficult to obtain!

Still, are you in need of expert guidance regarding this topic? Contact Credidocs and our team will be glad to help you with licensure activities.