Medical Coding and Billing in Alabama
People in Alabama earn about $7,000 less than the national average, yet medical expenditures run only a couple hundred less. Thankfully, most people in the state are insured, and the vast majority of the time, when they get a bill after a hospitalization or major procedure, they see that their insurance company has made a payment for all or most of the expense. It’s thanks to medical billers and coders that this process happens so smoothly.
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One of the responsibilities of people in the medical billing and coding profession is to make sure that insurance companies are correctly charged. Other responsibilities include coding diagnoses and procedures for the purpose of health care and research. Coding can be a surprisingly challenging! Whether an item is coded as being related to a current medical condition or to something in a patient’s history can be a payment issue. The same type of situation can occur in preventative medical care.
In order to succeed in the billing and coding profession, a person must have a working knowledge of anatomy, medical terminology, and pharmacology. They must also master complex coding systems. This generally requires postsecondary education through a medical billing and coding school program or a health informatics related program. People enter the medical billing and coding field with anything from a certificate to a masters‘, but level of education and certification determines job prospects and ultimately, compensation.
Medical Billing and Coding Training and Certification in Alabama
To advance in the medical billing and coding field, a person will need certification through AHIMA and/or AAPC. Increasingly, it is becoming necessary even for entry level medical billing and coding positions. AHIMA credentials everything in the health information technology field, from billing and coding to maintenance of tumor registries, while AACP focuses mainly on coding, offering a number of specialized certifications. AACP may be the more popular certifying agency nationwide, but some Alabama employers specify AHIMA. Others are happy with either one. Having multiple certifications, including advanced certifications or specialties, can be a career advantage down the road.
For those with national certification, there are very specific requirements for continuing education units. If a person has just one certification through AAPC, 36 units are required every renewal cycle. For each of the next three certifications, an additional 12 units is required per renewal cycle. At least 16 specialty-specific units are required for each endorsed area. Other units may be discretionary.
Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job outlook in Alabama
Jobs in medical coding and billing, as well as other health information technologies, are growing at a rate well above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the field would see 24% growth in Alabama between 2006 and 2016. Hospital coding positions are among the most lucrative, but are quite demanding. Many people need to work their way up to such posts. Some people start as medical records clerks or medical secretaries.
It can be helpful to plan one’s career path early. Some people choose to enroll in a broad-based program that prepares them for a range of related careers. In fact, a representative of Colorado Technical Institute Online reports that, in order to give their graduates more options, they have recently replaced the associate’s program in medical billing and coding with a program that integrates these fields with other health information studies.
As with most fields, salaries in the medical billing and coding profession increase with years of experience. Hospitals in Alabama, such as Huntsville Hospital, Mobile Infirmary Medical Center, Saint Vincent’s Birmingham and Dekalb Regional Medical Center are advertising medical billing and coding positions at about $12 an hour as of late 2010. The AACP reports, though that there is good earning potential with both higher certifications and more years on the job. Nationwide, coders with more than twenty years on the job are earning more than $20,000 more per year than those with two years experience; coders with specialty certifications meanwhile are earning about $17,000 more than their non-certified peers.
Medical Assistant programs in Alabama are another popular allied health education option for those looking to enter the rapidly growing Alabama health care sector.