Having taught medical coding for many years, I am frequently asked what does a medical coder do, and is it a good career path. Basically, medical coders use alphanumeric characters found in reference manuals to apply codes to the diagnoses, procedures, and supplies used during a patient encounter. The reference manuals used are the ICD-9-CM , CPT -Current Procedural Terminology, and HCPCS (used mainly for Medicare billing, drugs, durable medical equipment, and supplies). The medical biller then takes these codes and bills the payer (insurance company).
With the new healthcare laws going into effect, and the aging of the baby boomer population jobs in healthcare are expanding and abundant. Medical coders can work in doctor’s offices, clinics, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, health insurance companies, and even as medical claims auditors. Medical claims auditors go into practices and review past claims submissions for accuracy, and then make recommendations to the staff for improvement.
School For Medical Coding: Career Prospects
Medical coding is a great profession for someone who is detail oriented, enjoys continuing education, and enjoys working in the healthcare field. An excellent command of medical terminology and anatomy is absolutely necessary to become a successful medical coder. Even if one has had a medical terminology course in the past, it is a good idea to take one geared toward the needs to the medical coder. Laws and healthcare rules are always changing so continuing education is important. Additionally, becoming certified through a professional organization like the American Association for Professional Coders (AAPC) definitely creates more career prospects for the new medical coder. Also, most clinics and facilities offer wonderful benefit packages to their healthcare workers. Health insurance, retirement plans, and vacation allowance are all usually part of a good compensation package. A new medical coder without any experience is likely to make between $12-$14 an hour. However, this increases substantially with certification and years of experience. Many medical coders are making $18-$20 an hour. Also, with a few years’ experience there is the possibility of working at home for a company that does medical coding. The pay is usually quite good if one can code quickly. Some are making as high as $25-$30 an hour. Keep in mind, however, that the higher paying jobs require national certification and at least a few years of experience.
If you are interested in a career in medical coding, now is a wonderful time to receive training. Training time is usually relatively short at about 12-16 weeks. It is suggested to take a course that gears you toward certification through a well-known entity such as the AAPC and that includes a comprehensive medical terminology module.
By: Dawn Moreno, PhD, CBCS, CMAA, MTC. Medical coding and billing instructor. Lives in the beautiful Southwest. Her passion is in teaching adults new career skills so they can make improvements in their lives. One is never too old to learn something new.