Should Medical Billing Students Learn ICD-9?

As a medical billing instructor, I am frequently asked if my students should have an understanding of both ICD-9 and ICD-10. In my opinion, the answer is “yes.”  Whereas medical coders need a detailed knowledge of medical coding guidelines and compliance, the medical biller should have a cursory knowledge of medical coding in general. ICD-10 is slated to implement in 2015. So, why should medical billing students learn anything about ICD-9? This question comes up with every medical billing class that I teach :).  The reason is two-fold.  Medical billing training takes 8-12 weeks, so right now clients/payers are using ICD-9 so a knowledge of it is useful for right now. In the future, after ICD-10 implements, there will still be carry-over to ICD-9 when doing audits and appealing claim denials.  There is much ‘ado’ in the industry about ICD-10 being so “complicated.” It’s not complicated, friends.  There are more codes and the numbering system is a bit different. There are some differences where etiology/manifestation codes may be combined into one code. Learning ICD-10 coding is not a super complicated process, in my opinion :).

Should Medical Billing Students Learn ICD-9?

Having said that, there is more detail involved in ICD-10 code sets, so a deeper knowledge of medical terminology and anatomy would definitely be a good thing for a medical coder to pursue.  Since the healthcare field is ever changing, one should always seek to increase their knowledge. So, I encourage my medical billing students to take a medical terminology course and anatomy course to increase their own understanding. Whereas their specialty is “billing” not “coding,” it’s always a good idea to have more knowledge and understanding.  Knowledge and understanding make one more useful in any office, facility, or job.   Now, having answered the question that I do feel medical billing students should learn ICD-9 coding, I feel the thrust of their coding training/knowledge should be geared more toward ICD-10 since it’s the “wave of the future.” :)


By: Dawn Moreno, PhD, CBCS, CMAA, MTC. Lives in the beautiful Southwest United States and has been an instructor for medical coding/billing for the past 7 years.  Interested in quality medical billing training? Medical Billing Guide for Students

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