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Medical Coding and Billing in New Mexico

New Mexico’s residents rely on accurate medical billing and coding specialists for their peace of mind. 40% of the state’s residents have health insurance through their employers, and a combined 31% have insurance through Medicaid or Medicare. Medical billing and coding specialists are responsible for understanding the regulations of these and other payers. This in itself is no small task. The Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2011 is reported to have 2023 pages.

Reimbursement policies, though, constitute only a small part of the education of a future medical billing or coding specialist. These professionals begin their education the same way that those in allied health professions do -- with core medical courses. Why? In order to abstract pertinent information from charts, they need to understand medical conditions and treatments. Their education wouldn't be complete without an introduction to the coding systems of the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. Increasingly, medical billing and coding is becoming a field for educated career professionals.

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Medical Billing and Coding Training in New Mexico

Before beginning a program in medical billing and coding, a person should have a solid education at at least the high school level. Medical billing and coding training programs may have prerequisites or placement score requirements in areas like critical reading and essay writing. Typical class work includes anatomy and physiology, principles and classifications of disease, reimbursement methodology, and computer systems.

Coursework also prepares a person for national board certification. New Mexico’s employers may accept a wide variety of credentials from either AAPC or AHIMA. The expertise needed for the job will often determine certification requirements as well as desired experience. Some employers will consider CCA or CPC-A, which are entry level credentials. Others want CPC credentialing from AAPC, or CSS or RHIT credentialing from AHIMA. RHIT credentialing requires graduation from an accredited institution; the others are an option for almost any medical coder who has the skills to pass.

Employers may also ask for other specialized credentials, if not before hiring at least within a specified period afterward. Consider, for example, a recent post for a coding/ documentation specialist. The applicant was to have the role of performing case reviews and reviewing patient records for co-morbidity and complications. The position asked for a CCDS (certified clinical documentation specialist) credentialing within three years. (Sometimes, applicants will be glad to know, employers pay for further education and credentialing of their coding specialists.)

What do such positions ask in terms of experience? The above position requires at least one year of experience as a documentation specialist in addition to completion of a program at the associates level or higher. Those with shorter certificate programs will need to document two full years of experience.

Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job Outlook in New Mexico

Externships can also help students make connections and secure employment. A representative of Heald College has noted that externships sometimes turn into paid positions.

Externships at facilities like St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe, Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, St. Joseph Hospital in Albuquerque and Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces are optimal opportunities for future jobs. These facilities either have in-house medical billing and coding professionals or they contract with medical billing and coding agencies to do the necessary billing and coding.

What is the salary for a worker in the medical billing and coding profession in New Mexico? There is a large range, and different surveys report different findings. Payscale reports that annual pay nationwide ranges from $26,916 to $40,218 for a medical records coder and $29,985 to $47,626 for a certified coding specialist (CSS). An AAPC salary survey with more than 10,000 participants reported an even higher cap, with the highest reported salaries above $60,000. What characterized those at the high end? Salaries varied according to college degree, certifications, work setting, and years in the profession. Some respondents, notably, had more than twenty years on the job. There are also regional differences, both nationally and within the state.

Wages in New Mexico are comparable to the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, suggests significantly lower wages in Las Cruces than in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, or Farmington. You may also be interested in researching the Medical Assistant programs in New Mexico before making a decision.

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