Will New California Rural Hospital Law Affect Locum Tenens Jobs?
Ranked first in the United States in terms of population, the state of California offers plenty of opportunities for the locum tenens physician. A state this populous and physically large (it’s the third largest state in terms of geographic area) has big healthcare needs. It also offers a huge range of climates, cultures, and geographies, so it’s no mystery that a lot of locum tenens physicians explore assignments in the Golden State.
It’s no big mystery why so many people want to visit and work in California.
Last September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law allowing small, rural, critical access hospitals to employ doctors and bill for their services. Doesn’t sound like much, but in California, state law currently prohibits hospitals from hiring doctors directly. The new law will allow hospitals to bill Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers for doctors’ services. The goal is to address physician shortages in remote parts of California.
Rural Critical Access Hospitals Are the Ones Affected Directly
The new law affects critical access hospitals, which have 25 beds or fewer and are located in areas where the next nearest hospital is either 35 miles away (in normal terrain) or 15 miles away (in mountainous areas). Currently, hospital physicians are independent contractors who provide their own medical insurance, malpractice insurance, and fund their own retirement plans. The law is expected to make it easier for critical access hospitals to recruit and retain physicians.
Currently there are only 34 critical access hospitals in California, according to the California Hospital Association, in a state that overall has 345 hospitals, representing more than 14 million patient days. Therefore, 90% of California hospitals are not directly affected by the new law.
Unlikely to Have Major Effect on Locum Tenens Opportunities in California
Just because hospitals can hire physicians as employees doesn’t guarantee they will.
In a state with nearly 75,000 staffed beds (the most of any state), locum tenens operations in California will probably not change significantly due to the new law. While rural critical access hospitals can hire physicians as employees, it doesn’t mean that they have to. It just gives them one more tool to use in their effort to overcome a physician shortage that is particularly acute in remote regions. If your dream of a locum tenens career includes exploring the enormous and diverse state of California, you need not worry that the new law will have a major negative impact on your opportunities.
Need for Locum Tenens Physicians Expected to Remain Strong
In fact, the need for locum tenens physicians is expected to remain strong overall, due to several factors. Regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes under a new presidential administration, the United States still has a huge chunk of the population that’s reaching its senior years, and another huge chunk of the population that’s entering their prime years for starting families. In short, there may never have been a more promising time to create the perfect locum tenens career, or to work locum tenens to cope with the demands of various life stages.
One factor that will continue to make a difference in the success of your locum tenens career is the quality of the locum tenens agency that you choose. Locum tenens physicians need to work with an agency that has experience, expertise, and streamlined processes that minimizes the time between signing with the agency and being matched with exciting locum tenens opportunities. However you want to shape either your locum tenens career, or a locum tenens phase in your more traditional career as a physician, All Medical Locum Tenens invites you to contact us at any time for more information or for answers to your questions.