So it’s the health care industry for you, specifically a career as medical biller or coder. Have you thought of what it takes to up your medical billing and coding salary to a level that is worth your time and effort? Are you considering becoming a medical billing specialist, a medical coder or both? Answering this question alone will have a great effect on whether you can make it a lucrative career or not.
Are billing and coding similar?
While most training programs merge both skills, medical coding and billing are two separate things. They are closely related and one is dependent on the other, but the work entailed for each is entirely different. Even personality requirements are almost opposite.
A medical billing’s job is to see that health services provided to every patient are paid for. That means coordinating with the patient, physician or health provider and medical facility and more importantly the establishment that shall handle payments or reimbursements – the insurance companies or government. It requires good communication skills because part of your responsibilities is following up with all parties until the transaction is settled.
On the other hand, it is the medical coder’s job to assign codes to every component of a patient’s encounter with a health care provider. With hundreds of patients holding insurance policies, either private or government-issued, it is virtually impossible to go through each transaction for payment processing without a simplified system. The codes which are recognized by all the medical industry – for a diagnosis, procedure, prescription, supplies – are entered into claim forms for processing.
Does a medical billing assistant salary pay more than a medical coding salary or vice-versa? Generally, the rates are about the same range for either skill, which at the entry level is around $11 to $15 per hour. You do, however, increase your chances of earning more if you can be proficient at both. But you should also take into account that medical billing and coding salary varies based on factors like location and workplace.
Most training programs for medical coding and billing are incorporated as one. It is a must for a medical biller to also be familiar with the work of a medical coder and so these concepts are taught in medical billing and coding schools. More than medical terminology, which is a required coursework, there are specialized areas of knowledge that you must be trained in. These include:
- Insurance Claims and Regulatory Considerations
- Medicare and Medicaid
- Tricare and Worker’s Compensation
- Coding Systems and Concepts
The coding system, while it seeks to simplify the work for billing purposes, requires mastery. There are hundreds of codes assigned to cover every diagnosis, pharmaceuticals, procedures and even supplies used during an encounter or face-to-face contact with a patient and a health care provider.
That is why successful coders are people who are detail-oriented and are particular about accuracy, aside from being able to work alone.
Factors to boost your income
As in most careers, a determining factor in your pay is your experience, specifically how long you’ve been at the job. Expertise comes over time and the longer you have been doing the work, the more proficient you are expected to be.
Entry level positions for medical billers and coders in big cities, where the standard of living is higher is in the range of $14.73 per hour. With five years tucked under your belt after having completed your medical billing courses, you will be making $19.33. Fifteen years in the field could have you earning $23.37 per hour. So with experience alone, your medical billing and coding salary will steadily rise. It should be noted that there was an 11 percent increase in salaries for this career in the last year. And 2010 may see a similar rise in pay.
For medical coders, you may want to consider specializing if you want to further increase earning potential. You can choose as among specialties neuropsychiatry, rheumatology, nephrology, plastic surgery and interventional radiology. Of the list, neuropsychiatry coding pays the most with a $62,500 annual salary.
The institution you work for also has a bearing on your salary. A medical coder working in a hospital will be making more than one handling the needs in private practice. Others who have racked up years of experience and proven their expertise have successfully managed to become freelance coders or billers, working from home and serving the needs of individuals or entities that require medical coding and billing assistance.
In the end, you will be responsible for your medical billing and coding salary after taking into account the many factors affecting earning opportunities.