The Critical
Role of Medical
Billing and
Medical Coding

Medical billing and medical coding may take place behind the scenes of a health care setting, but their role is no less critical to patients' well-being. Medical billing study and medical coding schools offer the perfect opportunities to break into the flourishing field of health care.

Job description
Medical billers compile records of charges for services rendered, calculate the amounts of these services, and prepare invoices to be mailed to patients. Medical billers often contact insurance companies to determine the items and amounts that will be reimbursed.

Medical coders specialize in coding information for insurance billing purposes. They assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure, consulting classification manuals and relying on their knowledge of disease processes. Using computer software, medical coding specialists assign the patient to a diagnosis-related group (DRG), which determines the amount the hospital will be reimbursed if the patient is covered by insurance programs using the DRG system.

p>Training programs
Medical billers and medical coders must understand and follow the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which were enacted to maintain the confidentiality of patient medical records.

A number of community and career colleges offer certificate programs in medical billing.Medical billing courses and medical coding programs typically cover basic biology, anatomy, and physiology, as well as training on medical coding and computer billing software. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) approves medical coding certificate programs, in which students are introduced to health care records, including confidentiality, ethics, and pharmacology, prior to enrolling in medical coding courses.


Professional certification
Medical billers may choose to pursue the Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist designation, a national credential awarded by the Certifying Board of the American Medical Billing Association.

With sufficient experience, medical coding students may pursue the Certified Coding Associate, Certified Coding Specialist, or Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based credentials from AHIMA. Alternatively, the American Academy of Professional Coders confers the Certified Professional Coder, Certified Professional Coder-Hospital, and Certified Professional Coder-Payer designations.

Job outlook
If you have a strong background in medical coding in addition to medical billing, your job will be more secure due to the increased amount of paperwork involved in filing insurance claims. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical coding employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014.

Median hourly earnings of medical billers were $13.00 in May 2004; the highest 10 percent earned more than $18.88. Median annual earnings of medical coders were $25,590 in 2004, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $41,760.

Get trained for a career in medical billing and medical coding, and make a difference behind the scenes of the health care industry.

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