Massachusetts Medical Society: I'm Retiring; What Do I Do About My Medical License?

I'm Retiring; What Do I Do About My Medical License?

April 20, 2011

Licensing Choices for non-practicing physicians can be confusing. Physicians who are retiring from active practice have choices to make concerning their license status. As licenses must be renewed prior to a licensee's birthday on the year of expiration, physicians must choose how to respond to the renewal materials sent by the Board of Registration in Medicine. Of course, some physicians also chose to retire their license on the date that they complete their medical careers.

Here is some information from the Board on the retirement process and choices among active or full, lapsed and inactive licenses.

Active Status: A physician with an active license may practice medicine and may prescribe medications. An active licensee must complete the Board's Continuing Medical Education requirements and must have malpractice liability insurance coverage in the minimum amount of $100,000/$300,000. The full license fee is $600.00. In certain cases, the Board may issue a full license with restrictions.

Lapsed License: A lapsed license occurs when a physician does not complete the renewal application by his or her birthday. This is a revocation under the law and is treated procedurally in a manner similar to a suspension or revocation for cause. An application for renewal of a lapsed license is complicated. Contact the Division of Law and Policy at the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine if such a situation occurs. The fee is $700.00.

The problems inherent with a lapsed license cannot be understated.  If you do not formally decline to renew your license, your license will lapse. This is viewed as a revocation by force of law and should be avoided if possible.

Should you seek to get an active license in Massachusetts again you would have no inherent right of renewal, would have to file a lapsed license and would be subject to scrutiny of the Board regarding any weakness in your record or prospects for safe and productive medical practice. 

A middle ground chosen by about 1300 physicians currently is inactive status. An inactive licensee pays the full $600 fee which gives a physician the freedom from having to go through the extensive lapsed license process and development of a practice plan which the Board requires for physicians returning from retirement. Return from Retirement requires an application which is also extensive. Full licensees have a protected interest in their right to renew their licenses which is not available to individuals without a license. Of course, the Board may reasonably require makeup of CME requirements for inactive licensees out of practice for a few years or more.

Inactive License: An inactive licensee may not practice medicine or prescribe or provide direct or indirect patient care. A licensee who is inactive is exempt from the continuing medical education requirements and malpractice liability insurance. A physician may change from inactive to active status by completing the Active Status Request Form that is available at the Board's website. Note that the Board's prohibition on practice includes a ban on all prescribing including for family members and yourself for routine ailments. An application for inactive status is available at the Mass.Gov website

Retired Status: A retired licensee may not practice medicine or prescribe or provide direct or indirect patient care. When you no longer wish to practice medicine in Massachusetts, you may apply for a retired status. The Massachusetts Medical Society's website at has a nine page pamphlet on issues for the retiring physician which covers many additional issues.

A retirement form is available at the Board's website. If you would like to change your status to retired, download Application to Retire (.pdf, 1 page) | Word (1 page)

Reactivated License: A physician who was licensed in Massachusetts and retired from the practice of medicine may submit an application to Reactivate his/her license. The fee is $600.00.

A medical license is a tremendous personal achievement and privilege. Careful consideration of the options should be given before making any decisions.

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