The Sting of Practicing Medicine

Physician's Money Digest, December 2005, Volume 12, Issue 16

Physician's Money Digest

Every person knows that youhave to protect yourself from"the slings and arrows of outrageousfortune."Some hazards, liketaxes, are predictable. Others, like divorce,accidents, and poor judgment,aren't. That's why we have insurance,savings, and the urge to look bothways before crossing the street. Doctors,who avowedly work for the welfareof others, ironically have anadditional layer of risk related totheir noble vocation. The risk we faceis the specter of malpractice, bothreal and presumptive. We are thusforced to go that extra mile in protectingour professional lives and ourfamilies'assets. The featured articlein this month's issue of is devoted to some specifichelp in the task of preservingyour hard-earned assets.

Although we get little or no preparationin training for how to protect ourselvesfinancially in our careers, as soonas we get into practice we are confrontedwith the need for malpractice insurance,incorporation, and myriad strategiesjust so we follow our calling to helpothers. When I talk to students and residentsconcerning the impact of real-worldfinancial matters, I am struck byhow shell-shocked they seem. Manyscars ago, I guess I was, too.

And so it continues through ourcareers. The chatter in the doctors'diningroom at the hospital is not just theusual culture of complaint that we manifestto blow off the stress of the day, butreal fear. In some specialties and stateswhere malpractice excess remains uncorrected,the tail is wagging the dog.To cover these sharply rising costs,incomes drop and defensive medicinerules the day. A lot of doctors are eithercutting back their high-risk proceduresor even relocating to lower risk, lowercost locales. I used to work with the lastfamily practitioner in our area to doobstetrics, and he told me that he wasbasically working for free. Because heenjoyed delivering babies and felt anobligation to his patients, he took on allof that responsibility, risk, and time forno income whatsoever, thanks to thesqueeze imposed by fixed fees and risinginsurance rates. You might not be surprisedto know that he gave up his practiceentirely and moved away after afew years. But giving up what we loveand what we are trained to do seemstoo Draconian a form of asset protection.Is there another way?

Physician's

Money Digest

I'm glad you asked, because assetprotection can have a thoughtfulapproach. That's why we have hugelegal, accounting, and financial planningindustries. And that's why wehave friendlier, less expensive helpfrom sources such as . Read on, and knowthere is more that you can do to protectyourself.