Easy – and Important!
Do you have the right insurance to protect your license? You may think you do … but… Are you sure?
Many counselors, psychologists, physicians (MDs, NDs, DOs) nurses, hygienists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals licensed with a State Board of Health think they have insurance to protect their licenses from a Board Complaint, but they don’t!
Many Associates think they don’t need insurance, but they do! These are mistakes that can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Luckily, it costs almost nothing to correct if you do it now.
Licensees usually know they need to purchase liability insurance to protect against a lawsuit —but that’s not the only coverage you need to be safe. Equally important is having insurance to defend you from a Board Complaint filed with the Department of Health (DOH). In fact, of the two actions, a “lawsuit” or a “complaint,” you are far more likely to encounter a Board complaint — and yet that is the type of coverage many licensees not only lack but don’t even realize they need! Think about it: Even if you are an Associate licensee working under a supervisor, or a licensee working at an agency or hospital that has a policy that covers employees, your and your employer’s or supervisor’s interests may diverge someday; and if that happens, you will want to know that you have your own policy that is designed to protect your interests, not theirs.
Insurance companies offer two types of policies: Insurance for “lawsuit liability” and insurance for a Board “complaint” or “license defense.” The first type is for coverage against a lawsuit, when a person sues you through the judicial court system. That’s for policies of $1M/$3M or $2M/$4M. You probably have that.
The second type of policy is for coverage of “license defense.” This policy usually but not always includes subpoenas, a third type of action you should be prepared to encounter. This insurance protects you if you have a Board complaint against your license, but it is not included in the liability insurance for a lawsuit.
For adequate Board license defense (and subpoena) coverage, you usually have to purchase a separate, additional rider on top of the lawsuit policy. Some companies do include a minimal amount with the liability coverage, but with the rider you may be able to purchase up to $150K for a relatively low price (under $100 annually). Some companies include subpoenas under this coverage, others don’t. Some companies include very low subpoena coverage – like $400 — that will likely be inadequate, even for basic consultation. Some companies allow you to choose your own attorney for a Board complaint, others don’t.
It’s important to think carefully about which company and which policy you purchase. The wrong choice could cost you tens of thousands of dollars down the road, or more!
Protect yourself. How? Call your insurance company. Ask these questions regarding Board license defense, subpoena coverage, and choice of attorney for license defense:
1) Do I have coverage for “license defense”? How much?
2) Do I have coverage for a subpoena? How much?
3) Can I choose my own attorney for a license defense?
If you don’t have coverage or don’t have the full amount available, I suggest purchasing the highest amount possible, or at least the highest amount you can afford. If the cost is about as much (or less) as you might pay for an extra pair of shoes, I suggest purchasing the insurance rather than the extra pair of shoes.
Ultimately, I urge you to make sure your insurance covers you for license defense, subpoenas, and choosing your attorney for license defense. If you determine that you don’t have sufficient coverage, purchase it right away. Like now. Today. If your current carrier doesn’t offer what you need, consider switching to another carrier that gives you better protection. You don’t have to wait until your next renewal cycle. Even if you just renewed a policy, you can most likely switch now and receive a pro-rated reimbursement. Be sure to get a “tail” coverage.
Going through a DOH complaint is never pleasant, even under the best of circumstances where it is dismissed. It can be time consuming, preoccupying, highly distressing, and expensive. Whether you work independently, under a supervisor, at a hospital, or at an agency, take advantage of your current complaint-free status to purchase coverage that can save you future heartache.
This is not complicated to do, you just have to know to do it. If you have any questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 425-891-3411. I provide initial consultations at no charge, and am happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to pass this information along to colleagues and other professionals you think would like to know more about this topic. I’m happy to answer their questions, too.
Safe practice benefits everybody. Let me help you find the supports you need so you can do the work you love.
Frances Schopick, JD, MSW is an attorney with an extensive background in clinical Social Work, psychology, and psychiatric research, enabling her to understand the rigors and challenges of working in healthcare. She has served on the faculties of two major medical schools. Now an attorney in Seattle, Fran represents therapists and licensees of all disciplines with DOH complaints against them. She also provides consultation for subpoenas, risk management, setting up disclosure forms for practice, and witness prep for subpoenas and testimony in deposition or court.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this document should be construed as legal or clinical advice, consultation, or supervision. Every situation is fact-specific, and must be considered individually.