PA as Independent Contractor

March 1, 2008

Is it advisable for an orthopedic surgeon to hire a physician assistant as an independent contractor? The physician would like to hire the PA as an employee after she completes her time out for maternity leave.

Question: Is it advisable for an orthopedic surgeon to hire a physician assistant as an independent contractor? The physician would like to hire the PA as an employee after she completes her time out for maternity leave.

Answer: You might do better to hire her as a part-time employee, let her do her leave, then increase her hours.

Since you’ll pay taxes on an employee that you would not on a contractor, the distinction is important. And whether this person is an independent contractor or an employee is a matter of IRS regulation; it’s not really up to you. You can reference the IRS’s guidelines for making such a determination.

Basically, if you control how and when the person works, she is an employee. If you plan to bill incident-to, which implies you are controlling how the PA works, it makes rational sense that she is an employee.

Your malpractice carrier might also have questions. If you are not controlling how the person works - if she is a contractor for IRS purposes - then you have greater risk from a malpractice perspective.