Medical billing coders classify and maintain records of medical procedures for use in calculating insurance reimbursement for various procedures.
In most cases, medical billing coders consult a specialized piece of software to determine the amount for which medical care providers can be reimbursed by certain insurance programs. These amounts vary depending on the type of insurance program that covers the patient, as well as the type of procedure that was performed.
Medical billing coders use numerous parameters when coding records. Here are a few of them, and a brief explanation of each:
- International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM): The standard method of assigning codes to procedures and diagnoses in the United States.
- Current Procedural Terminology (CPT): This code system describes the type and nature of medical procedures performed at care facilities.
- Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS): Based on CPT codes, the HCPCS is used by Medicare and maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The duties of a medical billing coder go a few steps beyond simply knowing how to access the proper code system. Professionals who become medical billing coders also take on responsibilities such as ensuring the accuracy and confidentiality of medical records, carefully entering data into computers, processing forms and developing and maintaining indexes of vital medical information.
What is the job outlook for medical billing coders?
As business moves forward in the digital age, many industries are seeing technologically oriented positions open up by the thousands. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for medical records and health information technicians such as medical billing coders are expected to increase by 22 percent between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the national average for all occupations.
Factors such as the increase in medical tests, procedures and treatments performed in recent years are cited as the drivers of employment growth in this field. An aging population, longer overall life span and expansion of access to medical services are also expected to help create jobs for medical billing coders. Candidates who display a high level of skill in working with computer systems will find themselves in especially high demand for these positions.
What training or certification is necessary to become a medical billing coder?
Educational requirements for medical billing coders vary from job to job, depending on the size of the institution and the level of individual responsibility of the position. A good percentage of aspiring medical billing coders earn an associate degree from a community college or university before entering the workforce. Still more candidates attend vocational colleges or career academies and earn professional certificates in the billing and coding field.
Professional organizations in the health care information industry offer certification programs that can help a medical billing coder's resume stand out from the stack. The American Health Information Management Association offers a Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT) credential to candidates who hold an accredited associate degree. Specific coding credentials can be earned through the Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BSMC) and the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PACHS). The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) is held in high regard by employers.
In some cases, apprenticeship and on-the-job training may be available for medical billing coders. The availability of these opportunities depends on the employing institution, as well as the region where the job is located.
What sort of salary can a medical billing coder expect?
Online job posting aggregator Indeed.com shows an average salary of $122,000 offered to medical billing coders in June 2014. Here is a list of average salaries offered for positions that may be filled by professionals with medical billing coder training:
- CPC certified medical coder: $44,000
- Medical biller and coder: $22,000
- Outpatient coder: $42,000
- Medical records technician coder: $45,000
The nationwide mean annual wage for medical billing coders and other professionals in the medical records and health information sector was reported as $37,710 in a 2013 study by the BLS. The bottom 10 percent of earners in the study took home $22,700 on average, and the top 10 percent earned a mean figure of $57,320.
Geographical location plays a role in salary expectations for medical billing coders. New Jersey was the state with the highest mean wages in the field, showing an average salary of $57,520 in 2013. California, ($44,330), Colorado ($43,860), Connecticut ($42,640), and Alaska ($42,190) round out the rest of the top five states.
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013,
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013,