Your Step-by-Step Guide to Medical Billing and Coding

your step-by-step guide to medical billing and coding - Americolleges

Choosing to become a medical billing and coding specialist is a big decision. It means that you have made an important choice for your future, to enjoy a better career, and to earn a real living that will make you and your family more comfortable and more stable. To become a medical biller and coder you have to have certain skills that you can’t just learn on the job. You need to be willing to spend the time learning these skills through a certificate or degree program. If you’re ready to become a medical billing and coding specialist, or if you’re still debating it, learn more about how to get there in this step-by-step guide.

Market Demand for Medical Billing and Coding Specialists

 

The field of health care is growing like crazy in Florida and throughout the country, in all states. No matter where you go, if you have the right health care training, you will find it easy to get a job and to earn a great living. The health care industry is growing faster than average for several reasons, including the fact that our population is aging, more people are focused on health, and more people are covered by health insurance than ever before.

One of the fastest growing careers in health care is allied health. This refers to all the health care positions that support the work of nurses and physicians, and that includes people who do billing and coding. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in medical records and health information are growing faster than average. This category of careers, which includes medical billing and coding, is growing at a rate of 15 percent, with nearly 30,000 jobs expected to be added over the next several years.

In Florida, workers are seeing significant income growth and a big part of that growth comes from the health care industry. The earnings for a medical billing and coding specialist here outpace the average. Across the country, the median annual salary for someone working in medical records in 2016 was $38,040, or $18.29 per hour. In Florida in the same year that salary was $40,810, or $19.62 per hour. The top earners in the field, those with more experience and working in facilities that pay more, can earn more than $62,000 per year on average, so there are plenty of opportunities to make a great living in this field.

 

What Is a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist?

 

Medical billing and coding is a great career choice for anyone interested in health care, but maybe you’re still not exactly sure what these experts do. A medical billing and coding specialist is a health care worker with expertise in two areas important in medicine: translating medical treatments, diagnoses, equipment, and procedures into a universal medical code and submitting and tracking claims sent to health insurance companies. Medical billers and coders work in doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, and office buildings and help to keep health care running smoothly and to ensure that bills are paid.

 

How to Become a Medical Billing and Coding Specialists

 

Working as a medical billing and coding specialists will allow you to take advantage of the booming growth in the health care industry. It is a great opportunity to become a part of this field and to have job stability along with a steady and significant income. Being a part of the industry that takes care of people and helps people every day is rewarding, but there are some important steps you need to take to get there. First, it is crucial that you understand more about this career. You need all the facts about what it’s like to work in this job so you can decide if it’s right for you. The next steps involve education and training. To become a medical biller or coder, you need to choose a school and get the right training.

 

Step 1: Find out More about This Health Care Career

 

Before you take the big step of enrolling in a program for medical billing and coding, be sure you know what it means to work in this field. It takes a real commitment of time and money to earn a certificate or degree in medical billing and coding. Before you do that, find out if this is really the right career for you.

 

What is the Difference between Medical Billing and Medical Coding?

 

First things first: why are these two always placed together and are they the same thing? Medical billing and medical coding are not the same, but they are often grouped together because many specialists get their training in both. Some will work in one or the other, but many people in this field do both billing and coding on the job. Larger medical facilities tend to split the work between different specialists, but smaller medical practices often need a specialist who can do both jobs.

A medical coder takes clinical statements, lists and records of the procedures, diagnoses, equipment, and other medical information for a patient, and translates them into a special code. There are standard medical coding systems, such as CPT, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS Level II, which use alphanumeric codes as shorthand for things like a diagnosis of asthma, the application of a cast for a broken bone, or the use of a CT scan for a patient. Coders translate physicians’ notes, laboratory results, and other medical documents.

The work of the coder is very important for the work of the medical biller. The biller uses the translated documents from the coder to process, submit, and follow up on claims sent to health insurance companies in order to get payment for the physician, clinic, hospital, or other medical facility. In other words, the biller is responsible for making sure the medical services rendered are billed and paid for by health insurance companies.

 

A Typical Day for a Medical Billing and Coding Specialists

 

A day in the life of a medical billing and coding specialist is pretty typical. Both jobs are very independent. The specialist works at a computer and may also use the phone to do her work. There may be a supervisor, but each specialist has tasks for the day and is able to complete them without much oversight. A coder spends most of the time using the computer to translate medical documents into coded documents. A biller’s job is a little more varied. The medical biller also sits at a computer and spends a lot of time there creating bills based on the coded documents provided by the coder. The biller also has to spend time on the phone negotiating claims for services and following up on unpaid bills.

 

The Benefits of Working in Medical Billing and Coding

 

There are a number of benefits of working in a job as a medical billing and coding specialist. Whether you do one job or both, the benefits are similar:

  • Having a steady and stable career, thanks to good job security and high demand for skilled workers.

 

  • The ability to largely work independently. You may have a boss in this job, but you will largely work alone without much intervention unless you have an issue.

 

  • A great income. If you are coming from an hourly job or an unskilled job, working in medical billing and coding will give you a big income boost.

 

  • Enjoy the potential for working at home. Some medical billers and coders are able to work at home and choose their own hours.

 

  • Have a career that is meaningful. Although you won’t be working directly with patients, in this job you will be contributing to the care of patients in a meaningful way.

 

The Traits that Make for a Good Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

 

To be a medical billing and coding specialists you need to be able to work independently and to be able to take charge of your tasks for the day and get them done on time. You also need to have good attention for details. It is easy to make errors in codes and in billing, which can cause big problems down the line. Paying attention to the details is crucial. You also need to be able to sit all day and work on a computer, so if you get antsy and uncomfortable at a desk for long hours or you prefer a job that keeps you up and moving, this work may not be for you.

 

Step 2: Requirements for Becoming a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

 

To become a medical billing and coding specialist you will need to get a post-secondary education. The skills that these specialists use on the job are very specific. The training is often through an associate of science degree program, which takes two years to complete, but you may also find a shorter certificate program. A degree program will give you a greater advantage in getting hired and will include classes in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical office administration, medical ethics, coding, medical insurance, billing, and other important subjects.

Being certified or licensed in billing or in coding is not typically required at the state level, but some employers may require it. Certification at least gives you an advantage in getting hired even when it is not required. Employers may choose you over another candidate based on certification. To become certified, you only need to take an exam through a certifying agency, such as the American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders, or the Board of Medical Specialty Coding and Compliance. A good degree program should prepare you to pass any of these certification exams.

 

Step 3: Choosing a School for Medical Billing and Coding

 

Your final step in becoming a medical billing and coding specialist—now that you know what this career is like and what the requirements are—is to find the school that will get you there. You have a lot of choices, including traditional and online schools, certificate and degree programs, and public and private schools. Your options may also include personal factors such as schools that are close to you know or the choice of moving, being able to take courses around your family responsibilities, or a tuition that you can afford.

A great tool in helping you choose a medical billing and coding school is AmeriColleges.com. This and other similar search tools online allow you to input the subject you want to study, the degree type, the location, and whether you want to take classes online or on a campus, so that you get a focused list of schools that meet your needs.

Once you have that short list of schools, you need to narrow your choices down by more specific factors. Go visit the campuses in person to see what life is like there. Talk to students in the medical billing and coding program and talk to instructors too. Find out if the school has financial aid services or career services to help you get a job when you finish your degree program. All of these are important in making your final choice because they will impact your ability to learn, gain the skills you need, and ultimately get a job as a medical billing and coding specialist.

In Florida, there are many opportunities to earn a degree in medical billing and coding, and there are also great options for getting a job in this field and earning a great living. If you are in Florida now, or if you are thinking about moving here, this is a great state to learn and to work. So, are you destined to become a medical billing and coding specialists? If you are, learn more about how to find the medical billing and coding program that will give you the skills and the training you need to get into this exciting health care career.

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