Are you interested in pursuing a career in medical billing and coding, and want to learn how to go about chasing your dream? The following CareerStint article will provide useful information to help you in your quest.
Medical billing and coding is a complex job that is full of responsibility and understanding of various medical health processes. It also requires the specialists to have a sound knowledge of all the rules and regulations related to insurance. According to the American Hospital Association, about 18% of the medical billing and coding positions are yet to be filled, due to lack of qualified staff.
About Medical Billing and Coding
After being a part of the health care industry, it has been my experience that medical billing and coding professionals secure a job very easily. This is due to the fact that their qualifications, training, skills and experience gives them an upper hand over a candidate who lacks these finer qualities.
Medical coding is a system that helps maintain the records of each individual patients in the coding system (ICD – 9) which is recognized universally. This helps ensure that the information stored is in compliance with the federal regulations, and the requirements laid down by insurance companies.
Medical billing is a sub-specialty of medical coding that ensures a patient is billed correctly. It also involves interaction with insurance companies apart from patients. The medical billing department makes sure that all the invoices are paid on time and in an orderly fashion. The medical billing and coding specialist needs to have proper knowledge of the coding related to different medical invoices and patient information.
Job Description of a Medical Biller
Basic requirement for this profile includes doing two different jobs simultaneously. The medical biller/coder is a person who enjoys working in the hospital environment, and has knowledge regarding various medical processes and terms. However, he/she does not have a medical background. Instead, he/she is part of a non-medical team, that is, the administration team.
A specialist in this field needs to collect and enter data for maintaining a record of all the patients. This also includes recording bills, statements and making sure they are error free. They need to understand the codes mentioned by the doctors related to the various treatments and diagnoses. Then, these notes need to be translated into a format that will be understood by others in the health care setup. They also need to correspond with insurance companies who approach them for verification and additional information for payment of a patient. If the insurance company does not cover the patient, they need to forward the bill directly to him/her for payment.
Medical billing specialists have to ensure that a patient is billed correctly and gets him/her to pay the bill on time. They also need to speak to people from the health insurance companies on the phone, and analyze the invoices as well as data for billing.
Medical coding specialists on the other hand have nothing to do with patients or the insurance company. Their job requires them to analyze and code the data. There are codes for each and every procedure, and he/she needs to ensure that each file is properly coded and sent for billing. Therefore, both the specialists need to work as a team to get the bills and invoices paid in a correct manner.
In a small hospital, a day care center or a nursing home, one person can double up as a medical biller as well as a coder. Most of the time, these hospitals tend to outsource such jobs to an external billing agency.
This job usually has a 40-hour work week. This may also include working in shifts or even part-time employment. This depends on the medical billing agency or the hospital you work for. Some agencies also offer more pay to those who put in extra hours of work. These specialists work in a hospital or an agency office away from the health care facility.
A medical billing and coding specialist needs to at least have a high school diploma. Many employers seek someone with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration and other related fields. There are many vocational schools and colleges that provide training in medical terminology, billing software, document evaluation and government programs. This helps a specialist to add value to his work experience and reduce the training cost for his employer.
The salary of a medical biller/coder is based on many factors. A person seeking a job in an area with high cost of living and thriving local economy, will earn a good salary. Also, working in a large hospital, private establishment, etc. also plays an important role in deciding the salary. Your educational qualifications, experience, etc. will help you earn a higher salary. Thus, predicting the exact salary is difficult. However, according to the National Human Resources data, medical billing and coding salary range is about USD 35,999 to USD 44,562 annually (as per a research conducted in 2008). There must have been a significant rise in the salary at present, as this estimate belongs to the year 2008. So, the initial salary for these profiles is about USD 33,370, especially for those who are just starting out in this field.
It is not necessary that one needs to get a job in a hospital. One can even seek jobs in insurance companies, nursing homes, outpatient care centers, doctors’ offices, rehabilitation centers, home health care services as well as billing agencies. This occupation is said to be one of the best careers for 2010 and beyond. If you too are thinking about it, you should find out more about the schools offering training and explore the job opportunities in your area.