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If you are considering a career path in health care but prefer office work, you can become a medical billing and coding specialist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% job outlook growth for health information and medical records professionals from 2019-2029 or in a span of ten years. This is because of the increasing demand from the aging population who need health services.
What Does a Medical Coding and Billing Specialist Do?
Medical coding and billing specialists are health information professionals in charge of organizing, managing, and coding the information data. These include the medical history of the patients, symptoms, laboratory exams and test results, treatments, and more.
Their specific tasks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, include:
● Organize and update data in clinical registries or databases
● Review the records of patients to ensure accuracy, completeness, and timeliness
● Record the data electronically for efficient collection, storage, reporting, analysis, and retrieval purposes
● Use effective classification systems to code, categorize, and assign information for easy medical billing or reimbursements from insurance companies
● Maintain the records’ confidentiality to protect patients
Typical Medical Billing & Coding Program Requirements
Becoming a medical biller or coder is easier compared to other health care occupations such as doctors or nurses.The job entails specialized technical skills and detail-oriented methodology, which you can get through post-secondary education in a medical coding school. Another excellent option is to apply for an education program specially designed for medical billers and coders. Some employers provide on-the-job training, though many prefer to hire candidates who have completed a certificate or degree program.
The basic school requirements to enroll in the programs are almost similar. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most schools require interested students to submit the following
- 2-year Associate Degree Programs include a GED or high school diploma and a minimum GPA of 2.0 and above. The courses include Procedural Coding, Medical Terminology, Diagnostic Coding, Ethics, Pharmacology for Health Information, and Insurance and Billing.
- Bachelor’s Degree Programs include Healthcare Delivery Systems, Health Information Management, Medical Terminology, Anatomy, Physiology, Personnel Management, Healthcare Reimbursement, Project Management, Ethical Issues in Healthcare, Human Resources, and Healthcare Policy. The prerequisites to earn any of the aforementioned degrees are GED or high school diploma and minimum scores on SAT or ACT. During the application process, you will be required to answer essay questions, provide recommendations, and pass the interviews.
Typical Medical Billing & Coding Certifications Needed
In a nutshell, medical coding refers to tracking information with the help of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) standards. The data that the coder manages is used by the billing clerk to generate invoices, allowing the health insurance firms to process the patients’ claims. To practice both of them requires getting certifications that will vouch that you are a certified professional medical biller and coder.
There are two primary organizations that grant medical billing and coding certifications – the AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders) and the AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association.
The typical certifications include:
● Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
● Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
● Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
● Certified Professional Biller (CPB)
● Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
Joining professional organizations can also help your career. Most of them provide certification programs, ongoing education, student training, resources, credentialing examinations, member support, and financial aid for qualified students. As a member, you also get access to exclusive educational events, connections to other coders and billers, as well as professional development opportunities.
Exam or Experience Needed for Medical Billing & Coding Certification
Some certificate programs require completion, while others offer certification exams. According to Accredited Schools Online, AAPC allows qualifying students to take exams that cost $300-$400. Members of AHIMA can take their certification exam at a discounted rate from $199 to $299, while non-members need to pay between$299 to $399 for the exam. Moreover, some coding certificate programs include on-the-job coding experience. There are also medical billing programs with 40 to 80 hours of coursework that the student should complete within 6-8 weeks.
Potential Careers & Salaries for Medical Billing & Coding Graduates
The salary of medical coding and billing specialists varies, depending on their level of education, experience, certifications, medical setting, and location of care facilities. The average annual salary is more than $44,090 or $21.20/hour. About 10% of certified professional coders and medical billers earn over $73,370, while the lowest 10% has take-home pay of $27,800.
Top industries hire medical coders and billing professionals for the following positions:
- Management position (companies and business enterprises) - The average compensation is $50,010.
- Medical Billing & Coding staff (state, private, and local hospitals) - Basic salary is $46,880
- Administrative and Support Services – Basic pay is $43,890
- Scientific, Technical, and Professional Services – Basic pay is $43,460
- Physician’s Office staff – Basic salary is $39,190
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Medical Billing & Coding Degree or Certification?
Students can complete a medical billing certification program in three to six weeks. An associate's degree or bachelor's degree in a related field will typically take two or four years respectively. During this period, students are taught to be adept in medical coding, common procedure coding systems in healthcare, procedure codes, and more.
Medical Office Occupations
There are office career options for graduates of the medical billing and coding program.
● Medical biller- responsible for medical documentation and mastery of reimbursement methodologies
● Certified professional coder (CDC) - oversees the healthcare facility medical coding
● Certified coding associate – works under the CDC and manages electronic health record
● Medical billing and coding specialist – works both as a biller and a coder using medical software for more efficient recording, storage, and other tasks
● Medical Insurance Billing and Coding (MIBC) –specializes in receiving, coding, analyzing, and processing insurance claims
Should I Get an Associate’s Degree or a Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding?
Again, it depends on your career goals. An associate degree is a perfect option for medical coders who want an official degree. It is also a prerequisite if you’re going to pursue a bachelor’s degree and other advanced studies.
If you want a quick route to get employment, a certificate program that you can finish in less than one year is the best choice. The focused program of study is designed for those who want to take credentialing exams.
Is medical billing and coding for you? It’s high time to do your research and determine if you are cut out for this profession. The route to becoming one is easy. It is up to you to pursue a degree or get a certification program to become a medical billing and coding specialist. This particular field has enormous potential for growth in the context of job opportunities, compensation, and challenges. Health care is a thriving industry that continuously adapts to innovations, systems, and regulations. It will need more efficient and skilled medical coders and billers as time goes by.