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A locum tenens physician is a doctor that works as an independent contractor on a temporary basis to fill a position if another physician is out due to illness, vacation or pregnancy. Most locum tenens physicians do not have regular practices of their own, but provide temporary services to hospitals or medical clinics. Medicare has certain rules regarding the billing process when using a locum tenens physician.
Locum tenens physicians must bill for their services under the regular physician's provider number. For this reason, the regular physician must not be practicing medicine elsewhere or billing under his own provider number during this time. The rules regarding the use of a locum tenens physician state that this type of physician must not be employed on a temporary basis during a busy season or during a catastrophic event if the regular physician is working at the time. A locum tenens physician is allowed to cover for only one physician at a time and cannot provide services for multiple physicians.
Most medical facilities have bylaws that provide a staff position for the use of a locum tenens physician. These bylaws must clearly state the restrictions and duration of this staff position. In most medical facilities, the staff privileges for a locum tenens physician cannot exceed 60 consecutive days in duration because Medicare and other insurance companies only allow for charges to be billed for a locum tenens physician for 60 consecutive days. This means that the regular physician must return to work and treat patients before another locum tenens physician may be used in his place again.
Medicare has a specific set of rules regarding the billing of services provided by a locum tenens physician. These rules require that the regular physician must be unavailable to provide services due to illness, pregnancy or vacation; the locum tenens physician must be paid using a per diem method of payment; and the regular physician or any billing provider cannot bill for the use of a locum tenens physician for longer than 60 days. Medicare requires that all bills processed during the time a locum tenens physician is contracted clearly state that a substitute physician provided the services listed on the bill.
Locum tenens physicians are considered to be self-employed or independent contractors. This means that no taxes will be deducted from the physician's paycheck while working as a locum tenens physician. A locum tenens physician must file a tax return every year and report any earnings made while working in this capacity.
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