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What is Medical Coding and Billing?

Every time you turn around, there is a commercial on television or a banner ad on the Internet advertising medical billing and coding education or jobs. Although many of the ads are for legitimate schools and recruiting agencies, some are outright scams. The scammer may be promoting a self-study course, a fake diploma, or nothing at all; they just take your money and run. To protect yourself, it is critical that you thoroughly research all opportunities presented to you before investing time and money in them. Here are answers to some common questions about medical coding and billing.

To get paid for their services, medical facilities must code the medical treatments patient’s received and submit the bills for reimbursement. The basic duty of a medical biller and coder is to analyze medical transactions, code them properly, and work with insurance companies or patients for payment. They are also responsible for accurately maintaining patient records. While medical billing and coding can be done by the same person, they are actually two distinct career paths.
Medical coders only work with data. They have very little personal contact with patients, medical personnel, or insurance companies. Their days are filled with analyzing data and entering the appropriate codes for the various medical procedures. This position is best for people that don’t mind working alone, are highly organized, and are not easily bored by repetitive tasks.

Medical billers handle the billing side of this profession. They work directly with patients, insurance companies, and medical staff to make sure healthcare services are billed correctly and invoices are paid on time. A person in this position should be able to understand medical codes, have good interpersonal skills, and can analyze data.

In larger medical facilities, the medical coding and medical billing is typically done separately. However, in smaller physician offices or agencies these tasks may be handled by the same person. To increase your chances of landing a well paying job, it is a good idea to know how to do both.

What is the Work Environment for Medical Coders and Billers?

Medical billers and coders work in office settings with cubicles, computers, and other general office equipment. Many people in the industry work the standard 40-hour week, but this depends on the size of the facility. Smaller facilities may only need someone on a part time basis while others may be so busy that overtime hours are available.
While medical coders generally do not come into contact with patients, medical billers do. If you have a blended job doing coding and billing, you will likely come into contact with patients also. This is notable is because patients may be ill and contagious, so you must be willing and able to work with sick people. You must also have lots of patience, tact, and good interpersonal skills to handle the often challenging situations that arise when working with people.

What Type of Training is Needed for a Career in Medical Billing and Coding?

Medical billers and coders need to know medical terminology because they must decipher patient’s medical charts to determine what procedures were performed so they can be properly billed. Formal education is typically required to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary for properly doing the job. You can earn a certificate or diploma, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree which take 1 year, 2 years and 4 years respectively. The more education you have, the better job opportunities you will qualify for.

When searching for medical billing and coding programs, look for ones that include education in the following subjects: medical terminology, math, medical billing software, document evaluation, computer skills, and government programs. The programs should also teach you about how to electronically and manually process claims, how to interview patients and medical staff about procedures, and preparing documentation. Always take time to thoroughly investigate any school before signing up to ensure it provides a high quality education.

Can You Work From Home as a Medical Coder or Medical Biller?

Yes, it is possible to work from home as a medical coder or biller. However, it is not as simple as some people would have you believe. To work from home as a freelance medical coder or biller, you need to develop a client base. However, the only way to develop this client base is to work in the industry for a number of years and make contact with the physicians, hospitals, and medical facilities that outsource their medical billing and coding.
Only 3% of medical coders and billers work independently. While it is rare, it is not impossible to achieve this lifestyle. You must be careful, though, and avoid the scam artists that will attempt to sell you false dreams. Build your home business the right way and you will enjoy a rock solid career that will support you and your family.

How Much Can You Make as a Medical Biller or Coder?

The average yearly salary for medical coders and billers in 2010 was $32,350. The top and bottom 10% earned $25,570 and $42,170 respectively. The amount you earn in your career will depend on a number of factors including location, hours worked, certification, education, and experience.

Can Medical Billing and Coding Skills Be Used in Other Jobs?

It is natural for people to change careers, especially if there are better opportunities in other industries. Your medical billing and coding skills won’t go to waste though. They can be used in other professions such as payroll accounting, medical administrative assistant, and bookkeeping. You may need additional education or training to enter these fields.