Medical billing and coding involves the process of billing visits by patients to health care providers to ensure the providers receive the necessary compensation for the services they render. Health care providers are commonly physicians, but may also include nurses and other staff involved in the provision of services and treatments. The medical biller and coder is responsible for ensuring the procedures performed on the patient are accurately documented, tabulated, and sent to the patient's insurance provider for reimbursement.
A career in medical billing and coding can be fulfilling for individuals wishing to help others through involvement in the health care system without the training and time requirements necessary to become a physician or a nurse. It is a rewarding profession that requires an eye for detail, accuracy, and an understanding of the health care system, the billing process, and insurance companies and procedures.
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The profession is also projected to be one of the fastest growing job sectors in the coming years. Current entry-level salaries in medical billing and coding typically range between $30,000 and $40,000 a year, though the exact pay received will depend on a number of factors, including the work setting and the cost of living in the region of employment.
There are three typical educational paths in medical billing and coding: certificate or diploma programs, associate's degrees, and bachelor's degrees. At the certificate or diploma level, it normally takes nine months to a year to finish a training program. Community colleges and career colleges offer certificate or diploma programs, with career college programs usually taking less time to complete than community college programs.
At the associate's degree level, training programs last for two years.
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Beyond information specifically related to medical billing or coding, an associate's program will typically include a curriculum on general education.
Associate's degree programs can be found at both community and career colleges. An advantage of obtaining an associate's degree is that credits obtained during completion of an associate's degree program will often be applicable if the student chooses to pursue further education toward a bachelor's or master's degree.
Finally, the third route toward certification involves a degree obtained at the bachelor's level. Such degrees are offered by colleges and universities, which will have programs in health care administration and health information management or related fields; such programs can set students upon a career course in medical billing and coding.
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Bachelor's level degrees typically take four years from start to finish and, like associate's degree programs, will include a general education curriculum. While the bachelor's degree takes the most time to complete, it will provide the most career options of the three degree tracks, and will also increase eligibility for management positions in medical billing and coding or related careers.
Certification as a medical biller and coder is a useful way to obtain an edge when seeking employment after completion of a training program. Hospitals will preferentially hire certified candidates, due to the greater quality assurance of such candidates. There are a variety of certifications available, and candidates are advised to select those in line with their career goals. Certifications available include that of a Certified Professional Coder, with sub certifications for hospital coding and payer certification.
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