By Maxine Neuhauser

It’s no secret that the business of healthcare is growing exponentially.  Health insurance coverage is expanding and with it enhanced funding for health-related initiatives. Business models continue to evolve beyond the traditional healthcare delivery systems.   Corporately managed healthcare and dental practices are growing.

Corporate wellness programs to combat rising insurance costs are increasingly in vogue. Massachusetts’s recently enacted healthcare cost containment law provides employers with a “wellness tax credit” of up to $10,000  for adopting programs to combat preventable chronic diseases such as, obesity, diabetes, and asthma.

As many have noted, however along with the opportunities, come potential pitfalls.  One such area of note pertains to healthcare employers and employers who hire healthcare workers.  Such employers must be alert to employment issues resulting from the special obligations that attach to licensed healthcare professionals and the organizations that hire them.  Federal, state, professional association and credentialing organization requirements to which the professional is subject may all come into play.  Added to the mix are federal and state privacy and whistleblower protection laws, which often become implicated in healthcare employment disputes.

The following checklist reminds employers of issues and obligations to be attuned to with regard to the employment of licensed healthcare professionals. Employers must, among other things,

  • Avoid violations of state prohibitions on the corporate practice of medicine.
  • Develop corporate procedures to ensure compliance with state licensing requirements, including procedures to:
    • Monitor/track licensure renewals
    • Monitor/track Continuing Education Requirements
    • Monitor/track disciplinary inquiries and actions.
  • Draft employment and other related agreements to ensure compliance with state licensing requirements.
  • Develop corporate policies and procedures for ensuring employee’s job responsibilities comply with his/her obligations as a licensed professional, including:
    • Conflict of interest
    • Compliance with fraud and abuse laws
    • Scope of practice limitations.
  • Avoid employment lawsuits by licensed professionals.

Added to this, healthcare employers may have obligations to report an employee’s misconduct, incompetence or resignation while under investigation. Failure to meet disclosure requirements, disclosing incorrect information,  or disclosing information incorrectly, can all lead to significant legal and economic repercussions from regulators, the employee, insurers and the public at large.

The obligations of organizations that employ licensed healthcare workers are multifaceted and multi-jurisdictional.  Identifying the risks and developing strategies, policies and procedures to address them is critical to compliance, avoiding landmines and limiting financial exposure.