Two of the trendiest jobs you can get right now are medical billing and medical coding positions. While you’ll usually find medical billing and medical coding discussed together, they are two different and (usually) separate jobs. How much money can you make doing medical billing? Why are so many people choosing to become a medical biller? What is the job outlook for the future, and what opportunities will you have for growth in your new career if you choose to go into medical billing?
What is Medical Billing?
As the medical biller, it will be your job to bill patients and insurance companies according to the medical codes provided you by the coder. These codes are an alphanumeric description of the tests and treatments performed. They are a succinct and consistent way of organizing accounts so that doctors and other medical professionals can receive correct payments for their procedures.
You’ll also be following up on payments, setting up payment plans, and sending accounts to collections as necessary. That means that as a medical biller, even though you’ll be sitting in an office (or a home office) most of the time, you’ll still have a customer service role. You’ll be talking with customers over the phone to help them understand what they owe and set up a payment solution which will work for them. As such you’ll also be in a decision-making role.
Medical billing appeals to many people because it is a relatively flexible role. You get a lot of choices as to work environment, and wherever you move, you can usually find medical billing jobs in demand. This job may appeal more to you than medical coding if you enjoy working with people. Medical coders and billers both do a lot of work behind the scenes, but only medical billers typically interact with customers and insurance companies. Medical billers need to be problem solvers; when a patient has trouble paying, you need to be able to help them manage a solution. When an insurance company gets confused about charges, you need to be able to explain who should pay and why. Creativity and independent thinking are thus important on this job.
Medical Billing Salary Expectations and Job Opportunities
One of the best resources for learning about medical billing and coding salary expectations is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS states that in 2010 the median pay for medical records and health technicians was $32,350 a year and $15.55 per hour. This is a broad category of medical professionals which includes medical billers and medical coders. $15.55 per hour is not a very high salary—it’s true. It’s just a median, however, and higher salaries are available as you advance in your career. It’s also enough to support yourself on, and unlike many other medical jobs, it doesn’t require that you attend years of expensive and time consuming schooling.
How many medical billing and coding jobs are available? In 2010 there were 179,500 jobs for medical records and health information technicians. The growth of this profession was measured to be much faster than the average at 21 percent. As you’ve probably already discovered, it’s very tough to get hired in today’s economy. Medical billing is a relatively stable position where there is already more demand than you are probably used to seeing. Since the field is growing there will be more opportunities in the future.
How can you earn more money working as a medical biller? You may make more money working in some geographical areas than others, so relocation could impact your salary. The type of facility you work in may also change your salary expectations. You may work in a hospital, clinic, insurance company, healthcare provider administrative center, or even your own home office. Specialization is one of the best ways to increase your salary as a medical biller. By specializing in a specific field of medicine you may have access to opportunities in your field which command a higher rate of pay. The majority of medical billers work full time, but you may find part time positions on occasion.
Becoming a Medical Biller
Becoming a medical biller is a lot less challenging than trying to get a job which involves actually administering medical treatments. You’ll want to pursue certification in your field so that you can land a good job. Certification proves that you know everything that is necessary to perform well in your position. It also demonstrates that your knowledge is current.
Most candidates for medical billing jobs will choose to take a course in medical billing prior to taking the certification exam. Sections on the exam cover medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, web technology and IT, ICD-9-CM coding, CPT-4 coding, insurance, fraud and more. Since you’ll be learning about coding, this also opens up opportunities in the medical coding field for you. While medical billing and coding are two distinct positions, there are people who choose to do both. If you can pass the medical coding certification exam, then you can look for medical coding jobs as well. Do you need the course? Not necessarily—it depends on whether you can pull together the study resources on your own. Some medical billers have associate’s degrees, but that’s not necessary to get a medical billing job. Plus, as a medical biller you won’t be making enough money (at least at first) to justify investing in an associate’s degree.
Since medical billing is easy to train for and won’t take up a lot of your time, it is ideal if you’re already working full time to get by or you need to spend time at home supporting a family. You can even take classes for medical billing on the internet. Can you get a job as a medical biller without training? It’s possible, but it’s still a competitive job market and your odds of getting hired improve with certification. You are also more likely to get a good salary if you have fulfilled certification requirements.
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