Converting Confusion to Clarity in Florida

If I had a crystal ball, I would evaluate my future life and based on the upcoming challenges, I would knowledgeably decide which insurance products to purchase, how much coverage I needed, and how much to pay in premiums. That way, I would only spend as much money on insurance as absolutely necessary. Sadly, this concept falls solidly into fantasy land. The reality is that with insurance products you are often buying peace of mind. You are assessing and calculating your tolerance for risk. You will likely spend more money in premiums on insurance products than you ever recoup in claims. But on the other hand, if the unexpected happens, you’ll be very happy that you have that coverage to help you financially weather whatever the storm.

Insurance can be confusing and workers’ compensation policies, especially as they relate to relief veterinarians, are no exception. Workers’ compensation regulations vary by state and when you start asking questions of insurance professionals, lawyers, the state, veterinary practices, and colleagues you will get different and often conflicting answers depending on whom you ask.

In pursuit of clarity for myself and my fellow relief veterinarians, I’ve spent hours on the phone with officials at The State of Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation, The National Council on Compensation Insurance, employment lawyers, practice owners, relief vets, and insurance agents and underwriters. Even after all of this research, I can only speak with confidence to workers’ compensation as it applies to independent contractor veterinarians in Florida. This is because workers’ compensation laws will differ by state. With that in mind, it’s important that you research this in your own state. A great resource for a synopsis on each state’s workers’ compensation laws plus a link to each state’s site is the National Federation of Independent Business.

DISCLAIMER: I’m neither an insurance professional nor lawyer and none of this constitutes legal advice. So for specifics, please reach out to your insurance provider, state, or lawyer for any questions or clarification. That said, as it relates to working as an independent contractor veterinarian, (1099), in the state of Florida, the following is what I’ve come to understand.

Confusion: As an independent contractor veterinarian in the state of Florida, am I required to carry workers’ compensation insurance?

Clarity: No. As long as you don’t have any employees. See Florida’s coverage requirements here.

Confusion: If I’m injured while working at a practice as a 1099 relief veterinarian, will my health insurance cover the medical costs of my injury?

Clarity: Not necessarily. Some insurance policies won’t cover work related injuries because they expect workers’ compensation to cover you. When you tell them that you aren’t covered by workers’ compensation since you are an independent contractor, there is nothing to stop them from saying essentially, “well, too bad for you”. This is a problem which has three potential remedies.

  1. Check with your health insurance company to see if they cover work related injuries. If they don’t, shop around for a health insurance company that will cover you.
  2. Purchase your own workers’ compensation coverage.
  3. Pay your medical bills out of pocket.

Confusion: If I’m injured while working at a practice as a 1099 relief veterinarian, will the practice’s workers’ compensation policy cover me?

Clarity: It depends. If you have your own workers’ compensation insurance or you have a Certificate of Exemption from the state, then no, you will not be covered. If you have neither of these, then yes, you may be covered. However, the insurance company may not make it easy for you to collect. So what’s the deal with this? All veterinary practices with 4 or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Each year, the insurance company will audit the practice asking for annual W2 and often 1099 gross pay. This number is what determines their premium. The policy was not originally intended to cover 1099 workers even though their pay is often included in the premiums. Then why are the insurance companies including this in the practice’s premium calculation? Because if a 1099 gets injured while working at that practice and makes a claim or sues for a claim, they are likely to win and the insurance company is going to have to pay. As a result, your pay gets included in the premium calculation.

Confusion: I work at a practice as a 1099 relief vet on a regular basis on the same days every week. Am I covered under the practice’s workers’ compensation policy?

Clarity: Once again it depends. If you are working regularly at a practice on the same day/days each week without a contract that indicates an end date to the agreement, you may fail the definition of an independent contractor and will be considered by the state to be an employee. As an employee, you are definitely covered under the practice’s workers’ compensation policy. If you have your own workers’ compensation coverage or an exemption certificate, then you may not be covered. Although in this circumstance a lawyer may be willing to take on your case if you decided to sue since technically you are an employee and the employer is misclassifying you. This is one of the reasons it is very important to be classified appropriately. Being paid as a 1099 and saying you are an independent contractor does not make it so. See this link for more information.

Confusion: I work at a corporate or independent practice as a W-2 relief vet. Am I covered under the practice’s workers’ compensation?

Clarity: Yes. They are classifying you as an employee and you are covered under their workers’ compensation plan.

Confusion: As an independent contractor relief veterinarian, am I required to show practices a workers’ compensation exemption certificate?

Clarity: No. There is no requirement to carry a workers’ compensation exemption certificate. But, a veterinary practice can elect not to hire you if you don’t have one or if you don’t carry your own workers’ compensation coverage.

Confusion: What is a workers’ compensation exemption certificate?

Clarity: An exemption certificate will let practices know that based on your independent contractor status and your lack of employees, you are exempt from carrying your own workers’ compensation coverage. This also means that when the practice gets audited by their workers’ compensation insurance provider, your 1099 pay will be excluded from their premium calculation. This will save the practice money so they may ask you for such a document. To apply for an exemption certificate follow this link.

Confusion: Can a practice decline to hire me if I don’t carry my own workers’ compensation coverage or have an exemption certificate?

Clarity: Yes. So if you don’t have your own coverage or exemption certificate, you will have to decide if you’d like to get one of those things or just not work at that practice. Rod Finnegan with VetInsure suggests another solution is to offer to discount your rate by +/- 2% to help the practice cover your portion of their workers’ compensation premiums. See part II of the workers’ compensation blog posts for more information.

Confusion: If a practice doesn’t ask me for any information regarding my workers’ compensation coverage status, and I don’t carry an exemption certificate or my own coverage, am I required to do anything ahead of time to make sure I’m covered if I get injured on the job?

Clarity: No. If you get injured on the job you may be able to make a claim from the practices workers’ compensation policy but it may involve legal action. Alternatively, your health insurance may cover it or you can pay out of pocket.

Confusion: Will my health insurance cover the same thing as workers’ compensation if I’m injured on the job?

Clarity: No. Workers’ compensation coverage is more comprehensive since it covers 100% of the medical costs with no caps on medical, no co-pays, and no deductibles. Depending on the circumstances, it can also cover a percentage of lost wages.

Confusion: How much will a workers’ compensation policy cost me?

Clarity: It depends. You will have to shop different insurance providers to see if they are willing to offer coverage to an independent contractor with no employees and to see what the rate would be. But if you want to get a rough idea of your annual premium you can use this formula. *Take your annual earnings as a relief veterinarian, divide by 100 and multiply x 1.9. For example 100,000 / 100 x 1.9 = $1900. *Disclaimer – This formula was researched in 2019. It is subject to change.

Confusion: Which insurance companies will provide coverage for an independent contractor veterinarian with no employees?

Clarity: The Hartford: Policies can be purchased directly from The Hartford or through an insurance agent. Travelers: Must be purchase through an independent insurance agent.

Confusion: Will my workers’ compensation policy cover me if I work in multiple states?

Clarity: In some cases yes. It depends on the insurance company and their policies. Multi-state coverage may affect your premium depending on the states in which you are licensed as some states may require you to carry a higher limit.


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