As the average life expectancy increases, the need for people working in all aspects of health care continues to grow. In the United States, all medical facilities use universal coding systems to maintain patient information and to request insurance and Medicare reimbursement. A medical insurance coder assigns codes to each symptom, diagnosis, and treatment for every patient and enters the information into a database.
A medical insurance coder analyzes patient records to ensure that all services have been documented. He then uses a computer software program to assign the proper codes so that treatment can be monitored and the correct amounts billed. Attention to detail is extremely important, because miscoding can result in a loss of income for the medical facility. Also, significant penalties can be assessed against an institution for improper billing of Medicare and Medicaid claims.
This is one career that does not require a four-year college degree. A medical insurance coder training program can be as short as nine months. A person often cannot qualify to take a certification exam, however, unless they have an associate degree, which typically takes two years to complete. Because of this, most health care facilities will only hire applicants with a two-year degree.
Generally, associate degrees are not specifically designated as a medical insurance coder degree. They usually cover the broader field of medical information management. The one exception is for medical coders who wish to specialize in cancer registry.
Course work for degrees in health care information management includes training in medical terminology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, data coding, and computer science. Most employers offer on-the-job training for new hires, which is more specific to the actually coding systems used. While it is not required for a medical insurance coder to be certified, it is strongly encouraged. Certification increases job options and opportunities for promotion.
Hospitals, walk-in care clinics, doctor’s offices, home health providers and long-term care facilities all require the services of a medical insurance coder. Other potential employers include insurance companies and government health organizations. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of job opportunities in field will continue to grow.
Becoming a medical insurance coder offers a chance to enter the healthcare industry with a minimum amount of training. Courses are available at many community colleges, so the education costs are relatively affordable. For someone who enjoys medical information, is computer savvy, and pays attention to detail, this can be a great opportunity.