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CME Allowances and Reimbursement: A Practitioner’s Guide

By June 19, 2023CME Activities

CME money is a financial allotment provided by healthcare employers on behalf of practitioners for the purpose of continuing medical education. Funds are often allocated through the employment contract and dispersed via the practitioner’s monthly salary, or reimbursed following participation in a CME activity. These funds support the high professional standards required to practice by updating practitioner skills and medical knowledge.

CME Allowance Policies

CME policies are set at the healthcare facility level and are designed to facilitate the educational experiences necessary to meet licensure requirements. By setting aside funds for CME activities, facilities can ensure that a practitioner has access to the resources necessary to engage in a variety of continuing education courses. CME allowances provide the practitioner flexibility when choosing activities and can be used based on the individual’s unique needs.

CME Budgets and Expenses

CME activities include destination CME events and have a range of costs associated with them. In addition to the cost of attending a conference designed for both education and vacation, funds can be used to cover expenses such as transportation, meals, and lodging.

CME allotments vary from year to year but the average clinician’s annual funds will range from $3,000 to $6,000. These expire at the end of each calendar year. This is important to note because, in many states, requirements themselves are completed biannually.

It can sometimes be unclear which expenses should be made using your annual CME allowance and which expenses should be considered personal. Separating these expenses is important for managing your allowance. The practitioner’s employer expects CME funds to be used effectively, and tax authorities like the IRS see CME as a business expense when used appropriately.

Spending CME Money

Necessary expenses are not covered in every situation and most critically are required to be used during the course of CME activities. A typical employer CME policy would dictate that expenditures such as food should be made on the same day as a minimum number of hours of CME are earned. The line between CME-related expenses and personal expenses can be blurred, especially on destination CME trips when days are divided between CME and personal time.

Practitioners should defer to their employer’s CME policy regarding what is a legitimate CME expense and what isn’t. For example, you may have to carve out alcoholic beverages enjoyed during the course of a meal otherwise covered by your CME allowance, as this is a personal expense unrelated to CME.

The practitioner will want to keep in mind that per most policies, expenses like food are allocated on a per diem basis. The practitioner must pay anything extra out of pocket, even when traveling.

CME Reimbursement

Depending on the policy, some practitioners may need to be reimbursed for CME-related expenses after they are incurred. This arrangement could see a physician paying for their activities up front. Reimbursement could form the basis of a CME policy, with HR representatives and other healthcare administrators compensating clinicians for money spent on activities.

This contrasts with other arrangements where CME allowances are incorporated into an employee’s monthly pay. Policies may permit the use of CME funds yet to be earned. If a practitioner is eager to attend a conference but has no CME funds until the next month, they pay for the activity out of pocket in anticipation of the next allowance dispersal.

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