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Fast Careers in Health Care: How to Work in Medical Billing and Coding

In 2018 91.5% of Americans had health insurance in some form or another, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. [1] Those who use health insurance may not think about how the cost of an office visit is processed and ultimately asks them to make their copay, but for doctors and other medical professionals, it’s incredibly important that office visits, tests and other medical procedures are properly processed and sent to insurance carriers so that they can be paid for their labor. Often, doctors are too busy to handle this themselves. That’s why there is an entire industry of medical billing and coding where workers handle these processes. 

If you want to work in health care fast, but are not too excited about patient care, there are plenty of opportunities for you to succeed. One option for those who are interested in the business side of medicine is medical billing and coding. Learn more about this career, how to work in this field and more. 

What is Medical Billing and Coding

Medical billing and coding is a part of the medical reimbursement cycle, and actually encompasses two separate jobs. Medical billing is the process of invoicing, submitting and following up on claims with health insurance companies, either private like major health care providers Aetna or UnitedHealthcare, or public such as Medicaid. Medical billers need to keep track of patient procedures and billing records to make sure they receive payment. 

Medical coding, on the other hand, is the process of translating medical procedures into common medical codes used in the health care industry. Medical codes help summarize the medical services a patient receives. Those codes then document a patient’s health records and describe procedures that are performed to treat those conditions.  

What Does a Medical Billing and Coding Worker Do?

Both medical billers and coders use languages like Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®), [2] which is a uniform language for coding medical services and procedures to streamline reporting. Other medical coding languages include International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM) [3] and HCPCS Level II. [4] These codes help turn what a doctor may note as running a test for strep throat into a precise process that can be understood by health insurance companies. 

A medical coder translates patient records into various languages, while a medical biller submits those codes to various agencies for payment. The medical biller needs to understand how to read medical records and, like the medical coder, be familiar with the various code languages. Medical billers must also keep track of claims to make sure they are appropriately processed by health care payers to make sure the medical practice receives reimbursement. This involves precise record keeping. 

Medical billers’ duties may vary depending on where they work. They can include both front- and back-office jobs such as gathering patient information, verifying health plan coverage, checking prior authorizations, collecting copays from patients, and ensuring medical codes are accurate before sending them to payers. 

Why Work in Medical Billing and Coding

Medical billing and coding is a growing career with high demand. Employment of health care occupations is projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies as much faster than the average for all occupations. [5] In all, the BLS estimates all health care occupations will add about 1.9 million new jobs during that time period. Health care occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. This growth in health care positions is attributed to an aging U.S. population that requires more medical services. As the demand for health care grows, so does the need for those who support health care practitioners. 

The BLS does not track medical billers and coders but there are a number of occupations that include medical billers and coders. The BLS reports that employment of medical records and health information technicians, which includes medical coders, is expected to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028. [6] Employment for medical secretaries is expected to grow 16% nationally during the same time period, which is much faster than average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [7]

Medical Billing and Coding Salary 

Again, since the BLS does not track medical billing or medical coding under their own occupational profiles, it’s best to check what similar occupations may include medical billing and coding when looking for what a medical biller and coder salary is. 

For medical records and health information technicians, the median annual wage was $40,350 in May 2018. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10% earned less than $26,550, and the highest 10% earned more than $66,260. [8]

Medical secretaries had a May 2018 median annual wage of $35,760, with the bottom and top 10% earning $25,390 and $51,890, respectively. [9]

Best States to Work in Medical Billing and Coding

According to the BLS, the highest paying states for medical records and health information technicians in may 2019 were: [10]

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
District of Columbia 1,010 1.39 $28.58 $59,450
Alaska 1,040 3.29 $27.89 $58,000
Hawaii 1,070 1.68 $26.41 $54,920
Massachusetts 7,930 2.19 $26.14 $54,370
Washington 8,650 2.61 $25.91 $53,890

According to the BLS, the top paying states for medical secretaries in May 2018 were:[11]

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
District of Columbia 1,270 1.78 $24.22 $50,370
Massachusetts 25,730 7.21 $20.89 $43,450
California 83,410 4.90 $20.62 $42,900
Minnesota 12,450 4.34 $20.55 $42,750
Washington 8,200 2.52 $20.52 $42,680

How Long is a Medical Billing and Coding Program?

Depending on if you want to pursue an associate degree in medical billing and coding, or if you just want to get a certificate, medical billing and coding programs can be fairly quick. If you only want to get a certificate of achievement, it can take as few as nine months. At Carrington College, an associate degree in medical billing and coding can be completed in as few as 16 months. 

Can I Study Medical Billing and Coding Online?

Not only can you study medical billing and coding online, but there are also benefits to doing so. Online programs can be more flexible, especially if you have prior commitments like childcare or another job. Some students also find the format of online learning is better suited for their needs. 

When evaluating medical billing and coding schools, be sure to consider if you think an online or on-campus format works best for you.

How to Find Medical Billing and Coding Jobs

Medical billers and coders work in health care, but there are many different options for where you can work. Basically any medical provider who bills insurance may have a need for medical billers and coders, this includes hospitals, physicians offices, home health care services, residential treatment facilities, dental offices, and every other medical office you can imagine. 

When looking for medical billing and coding jobs, first check for major medical groups in your area. This will vary by state and city. The next best place to look for jobs would be major listing sites like Indeed, or industry specific boards like the AAPC. [12]

What to Look for in a Medical Billing and Coding Program

Choosing the right medical  program for you is a big decision. The right training can open doors for better jobs and possibly salary down the line. While many institutions may offer medical billing and coding classes, it’s important that you look for the one that fits your goals and lifestyle. 

A few core things to look for when considering medical billing and coding programs include:

  • Small class sizes. When learning to be a medical biller or coder you want individual attention from your instructor. 
  • Program format. It’s important that you choose a program that fits your learning style and lifestyle. Deciding between an on-campus or online medical billing and coding program will be a big part of choosing the right school. 
  • Externships or career training. Most programs include an opportunity to learn in the real world before you even graduate! You’ll earn an impressive experience that looks great on your resume.
  • Cost. Education is a major investment, but it’s an investment in your future. At Carrington College and many other institutions, we participate in most financial assistance programs, both federal and state, as well as private financing. Student loans, grants, and scholarships are available to those who qualify. For complete information on current tuition costs, please see the academic catalog

Medical Billing and Coding Certificate vs Associate Degree

Another major decision you’ll make when considering medical billing and coding school is if you want to pursue an associate degree or a certificate. Both options provide you with the skills you need to start working in medical billing and coding. The major difference is the length of the program. With a medical billing and coding certificate program, you will focus on medical billing-specific courses. If you were to pursue an associate degree option you may take additional coursework including:

  • Computer literacy
  • English writing and composition
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social sciences

What Will I Learn in Carrington College Medical Billing and Coding Programs?

Some courses you would take if you were to enroll in the Medical Billing and Coding program at Carrington College include:

  • MBC 10 Medical Billing and Coding Theory 1 This course provides an overview of medical insurance, medical ethics, confidentiality practices and the life cycle of an insurance claim. Anatomy, physiology and terminology units including levels of organization, anatomical position, planes and body cavities and related medical terminology are presented. An overview of the musculoskeletal system is presented, as are associated coding and medical terminology. 
  • MBC 30 Medical Billing and Coding Theory 3 This course focuses on day-to-day medical financial practices, patient statements, collection techniques and communication skills. It addresses cultural diversity, HIV and AIDS. An anatomy, physiology and terminology unit is presented on the gastrointestinal, genitourinary and reproductive systems. 
  • MBC 40 Medical Billing and Coding Theory 4 This course provides students with an understanding of the various models of managed care including Medicare, Medicaid and Medi-Cal. Topics include federal and state guidelines, eligibility requirements, benefits, managed care implications, participating providers, pre-approval of services guidelines and step-by-step claim form instructions. It includes extensive ICD-10 coding, CPT coding and authorizations and referrals. An anatomy, physiology and terminology unit is presented on the cardiovascular system and related coding and medical terminology.
  • MBC 501 Externship The externship provides students with field experience in a professional setting. Students practice acquired skills under direct supervision. This is a credit/no credit course. 

Find Carrington Medical Billing and Coding Programs Near Me

Carrington College offers medical billing and coding in both a certificate and an associate degree program, both on-campus at 16 locations in Arizona, California, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, and online from wherever you are.

Carrington College employs a skilled faculty who are experts in their field. Learn anatomy, physiology, coding languages, medical ethics and more with our program. 

Learn more about the Medical Billing and Coding online program or our on-campus program.  

Visit https://carrington.edu/admissions/student-consumer-information/ for important information on program outcomes. 

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