CareerFactsheet.com > Medical Billing and Coding Careers > Medical Biller and Coder- Duties, Salaries and Education Paths

Medical Billing and Coding Career Overview

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Jul 30, 2012

Medical billers and medical coders, while not clinical staff, are an important part of the team of any medical facility, doctors practice or medical supply business. As most patients and clients of these businesses have health insurance that will meet at least some of the costs involved with the treatments and/or supplies they receive skilled people are needed to bill these insurance companies correctly. This not only ensures that the medical providers they work for are paid the maximum amounts possible for the services they provide but that patients are left with the lowest possible out - of - pocket expenses as well.

What Do Medical Coders Do?

Every single medical procedure, service and even medical supply has a unique code attached to it that health insurance companies all use to identify the items being billed to them. The two most commonly used types of code are ICD codes (currently called ICD-9 codes but a new system ICD-10 coding is on the way) which are used to describe procedures and therapies provided on an inpatient basis while CPT codes are used to describe therapies and procedures that are provided on an outpatient basis. There are also codes called HCPCs codes that are used to describe medical equipment and medications that a patient is given.

It is a medical coders job to review the information they are given from a patient's chart and then code everything that is going to be billed correctly. Inaccurate coding is one of the biggest reasons that health insurance claims are denied or paid at a reduced rate so the medical coder's role in the medical billing process is a crucial one.

What Do Medical Billers Do?

Medical Billing and Coding Training & Education

A medical billers role is to coordinate the processing of a claim and try to ensure that the claims submitted are as accurate and timely as possible. This often involves communicating with patients, providers and the insurance companies themselves to make sure that everything from the correct pre-treatment referrals have been obtained and that the insurance information they have been provided with is correct to things as seemingly small as ensuring that the claim is submitted to the correct offices.

Almost all of the educational programs that prepare people for medical billing and coding careers cover both aspects of the medical billing process - billing and coding - and after graduation it will be up to the individual, and the job market, to decide if they want to specialize in just one aspect of the process or take on a role that involves overseeing every aspect of the billing process from start to finish.

Salary Outlook for Medical Billers and Coders

One of the most important things that anyone considering making a career change that involves spending time getting the right education needs to know is just how much their new skills might be able to earn them in terms of salary. It is far from the only consideration but definitely an important one!

There is no way to calculate an accurate average salary for the field in general because it is such a wide and varied one. There are those people who discover, usually while they are in school for medical billing and coding, that one aspect of the field interests them more than the other and they choose to concentrate on that only, something that will impact the amount they earn. The setting they are employed in will make a difference as well.

The most recent U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data states that the medical billing and coding salary range is between $21,860 and $55,170. It should be noted that The Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook classifies medical coders and medical billing specialists in with the Medical Records and Health Information Technicians category.

This is not quite accurate as this involves other job function that a medical biller and medical coder will rarely ever be asked to undertake like medical records management but it is still probably the most accurate guide someone considering a career in medical billing and/or medical coding can consult.

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics do offer the following basic breakdown of average salaries according to the type of employer a medical billing and medical coding might work for:

Annual Salary Ranges By Employer Type
Hospitals $37,960
Physicians Offices $30,120
Nursing Homes $33,880
Outpatient care centers $32,980
Federal Government $46,290

The federal government figure is a little deceptive though as the number of people employed by them is rather small and tends to be concentrated in large metro areas in and around large government facilities - many of the 5,000 employees that do work in the field for the federal government work in the Washington DC metro area.

There are also figures that relate to the geographical areas that medical billers and medical coders work in. The most recent (for 2010) break down as follows:

Annual Salary Ranges Geographically
Northeast $47,500
Midwest $41,848 and $42,434
South $39,830 and $43,906
West Coast $53,000
Mountain West $44,300
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment & Wages 2010 for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Education and certification are of course a factor as well. According to a survey of industry salary norms in general for 2010 undertaken by the American Academy of Professional Coders the average salary for a non credentialed employee was $37,000 versus $45,000 for a certified employee in the first years of their career (like any other job salaries increase as people gain actual work experience).

Medical Billing and Coding Educational Programs (Cert, AS, BS)

There are a number of different educational paths a medical biller and/or medical coder can choose. The most common one is a nine to twelve month certification program that educates a student in the basics of both billing and coding and provides them with enough knowledge to earn a certification. These courses can be completed both at physical campus based schools and online and are the initial path taken by many people.

Like many other career fields more education equals higher salaries and more responsible positions. There are a number of school that offer two year Associates Degrees in Medical Billing and Coding and as the field continues to expand there are a handful of four year colleges offering Bachelors Degrees as well.

Many medical billers and medical coders begin by completing a certification course and then once they have gained employment in the field pursue even more education on a part time basis. Its a similar path to the one many nurses follow who chose to become an LPN or RN and then boost their earning power by pursuing more advanced degrees as they work.

The Future Potential of the Medical Billing and Medical Coding Field

Medical billing and coding is a career path that has enjoyed steady growth and according to to the US Bureau of Statistics that trend is expected to continue. According to them employment of professionals in the medical billing and coding field is expected to increase 20% between 2008 and 2018, a figure that indicates much faster growth than for all occupations in general.

There is no one particular setting that is predicted to enjoy more growth than others though. Every medical practitioner or medical services provider who accepts health insurance has to file claims so the need for medical billers and coders is an obvious one. There are no software available that can take the place of a skilled and intelligent medical coder and although almost all medical billing is performed electronically these days there is no software substitute for a skilled human medical biller either.

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