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Medical Billing and Coding in Arizona

Medical billing and coding is a good career for a person who is attracted to the medical profession, who found anatomy and other life sciences genuinely interesting, yet may not want the messiness, emotional pain, or responsibility of being a medical professional. Billers and coders master a lot of information, from complex international coding systems to laws about privacy and compliance. They must be on top of new information in the field, as codes, diagnoses, and policies are constantly changing.

The code that a medical biller or coder attaches to a procedure has a lot to do with how (and whether) a hospital bill gets paid. It determines whether an insurance company will view the procedure as medically necessary or important, and also what portion they are obligated to cover. The precision of the medical coder isn't quite as important as that of the surgeon, but it is important. It matters a lot to patients and families in the weeks and months after a procedure is over.

Medical billing and coding is an educated profession. While some people do secure entry level positions with a certificate or even a high school diploma, advancement depends on high levels of both education and certification. Increasingly, field entry does as well.

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Medical Billing and Coding Training in Arizona

Medical billing and coding training in Arizona takes multiple forms. One can pursue the field in-depth and in isolation or in combination with other health information technologies. Programs in medical billing and coding are available at different levels. Typical coursework will include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, ICD-9-CM and CPT medical coding systems, computerized billing, and legal and ethical issues. The ideal medical billing and coding training program will also prepare a student to sit for national board examinations.

The two best known credentialing agencies are the AAPC and AHIMA. Each offers different levels of examination and certification. An entry-level certification through AAPC is CPC, or Certified Professional Coder. Coders are designated CPC-A, or Certified Professional Coder Apprentices, until such time as they have two years of real world coding experience. This is unless they take, in addition to their regular board exams, an 800 item challenge which simulates real world coding. (The program is new, and reported to be very challenging.)

Experienced medical billing and coding specialists can also pursue advanced certifications, for instance, Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder. Someone with this designation might work as a cardiology procedural coder.

Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job outlook in Arizona

As with other professions, compensation increases with years on the job. According to a 2009 survey of more than 10,000, workers, those with 20+ years of experience were earning about $20,000 more a year than those with two years of experience. Job setting has an effect on salary. Hospitals offer good pay, but can be a hard market to break into. It can be good, early in one’s career, to look for positions in doctor’s offices or administrative settings. Some new graduates use placement agencies or temporary agencies to land that first job. Snelling Staffing Services, for example, reports that they place some people in administrative-type health care positions where they can gain valuable work experience.

Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Saint Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and Tucson Medical Center are some of the facilities that many medical billing and coding specialists find those coveted hospital positions. They are good places to start a job search after gaining work experience or to network with others in the profession for future opportunities.

Medical billing and coding specialists enjoy solid middle class salaries, especially if they have high levels of training. AAPC, which has a well credentialed membership, lists $45,222 as an average salary for those in Arizona. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical coders and other health information specialists enjoy higher pay in the Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan area than in other regions of the state. The northern parts of the state report figures that are nearly as high, though. This includes not only Flagstaff, but also the nonmetroplitan areas near the northern border. Flagstaff is actually a very popular area for those in the health information technologies. Not only is pay relatively good, but there is high per capita employment in the industry. Somewhat lower wages are reported for Tucson and Yuma, as well as for the rural areas in the southern part of the state.

Medical assistant programs in Arizona are another popular allied health career education pathway that people research in addition to the medical billing and coding programs in Arizona.

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