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CME Allowances and Reimbursement: A Practitioner’s Guide

By March 26, 2024CME Activities

Depending on what state you practice medicine in, you’re required to earn a specific number of CME credits every year or two years to maintain your medical license. Your CME allowance is a financial allotment provided by your employer to meet continuing medical education requirements and support your development as a clinician. Depending on your employer, you may be allotted both money and time to earn CME credits. This allowance is likely outlined in your employment contract and may have been negotiated during the hiring process. CME stipends help healthcare organizations and individual practitioners share the costs and the benefits of CME.

CME Reimbursement

CME allowances can be allocated in a number of different ways by your employer. In some cases, the amount may be included in your annual salary and distributed monthly as a part of your paycheck to be spent at your discretion. This is typical of many healthcare employment arrangements and offers physicians and other healthcare providers freedom and flexibility when earning CME credit.

In other cases, practitioners may be asked to spend their own money upfront. Practitioners then submit a list of expenses and proof of participation to be reimbursed. CME reimbursements can be expected to cover the total cost of the activity itself and may also cover some activity-related expenses like travel and food depending on your employer’s policy.

Lastly, an employer may manage CME budgets for individual employees. Employee information and a financial allotment are connected to an account, with a deduction made every time an activity or associated cost is paid for.

Find the right CME for your practice and make the most of your allowance.

CME allowances typically expire a year after they’re allotted, usually at the end of the calendar year on December 31st. However, the exact expiration date can vary based on your organization’s CME policy and the end of each June is also a common expiration date. Unspent CME funds generally do not roll over into the following year and cannot be accrued from year to year. If your employer uses the second or third process mentioned above to cover your CME expenses, you should be able to access your remaining balance throughout the year via a portal or the department managing your CME budget. Knowing how much of your annual fund is left at any point will help you determine when and how to purchase credits to meet your licensing requirements.

Know Your Employer’s Reimbursement Policy

Your CME allowance likely comes with specific rules about how you can use it. These are unique to your employer, outlining what can be reimbursed and when you need proof of purchase. For example, your employer’s policy may cover staying in a hotel but not a luxury resort during a CME conference. The policy should be straightforward but if there is confusion about what a policy covers and what it doesn’t, ask before spending your own funds on CME and related expenses.

No matter your employer’s policy or process, it’s up to you to understand the tax implications of how you spend your CME money. Consider talking to a financial advisor or tax professional for guidance specific to your situation.

CME Expenses

CME allotments vary from year to year but the average clinician’s annual funds range from $2,000 to $4,000. In most cases, these funds can be used to cover expenses such as transportation, meals, and lodging in addition to the registration cost of a CME conference designed for both education and vacation. In order to satisfy all healthcare organization and legal requirements, document every expense related to your CME. This can include registration fees, course costs, textbooks, subscriptions, supporting materials, and travel expenses.

Average CME Allowances

CME stipends vary greatly depending on the type of organization you work for, your location, your role and specialty, licensing requirements, and more. Allowances may vary from year to year. Some healthcare providers’ continuing medical education allowances can also be used to cover required exams, licenses, and memberships, which may impact the total amount offered.

For physicians, the average CME allowance in 2022/2023 was $3,800 per AMN Healthcare’s 2023 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives, although individual offers ranged from $3,000 to $45,000 per year. Higher CME allowances for physicians may cover additional opportunities, such as travel expenses related to speaking engagements. Physicians also generally receive five to 10 days of paid time off to earn their CME. As can be expected, PAs and NPs receive smaller annual continuing medical education allowances, with an average of $2,299 (ranging from $1,000 to $5,000) and five days of paid time off.

Using Your Allowance

As a provider, there’s not only pressure to understand and meet requirements but to spend your CME funds effectively every year. There are lots of creative ways to spend CME money, no matter what your budget is. It can be helpful to plan how you’ll use the majority of your yearly allotted funds before spending anything on CME. Be mindful of the total number of credits available, type of activity, accreditation status of the provider, and duration of the activity before deciding the best use of your CME allowance. Always consider the total cost of participating, including any potential expenses not covered by your allowance, before choosing your next CME activity. This way, you can ensure you’re earning most if not all of the credits you need for licensure within your stipend.

Use your CME allowance for CME conferences and on-demand courses.

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