Medical Coding and Billing in Alaska

Medical billing and coding experts sift through documentation from doctors and other health care providers and attach codes for such purposes as insurance reimbursement or research. It’s a surprisingly academic pursuit. In fact, medical billing and coding is a career for people who did well in school and who have an affinity for mastering factual content and applying it accurately in a variety of situations. It’s not always cut and dry deciding what code to apply to a procedure or a setting. There are online forums where medical coders discuss not just how to find jobs or pass exams but how to correctly assign codes to the most complex cases. Many of these billing and coding experts love what they do, taking pride in situations where they managed to get an insurance company to pay by providing the right documentation.

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One of the benefits of becoming a medical billing and coding specialist is that, with several years of experience, you can work anywhere, including your own home. There are legitimate and lucrative work from home positions, which can be attractive to those in the rural areas of Alaska. Medical billing and coding is one of the few health careers where one can not only earn a degree from an accredited institution online, but ultimately work from a home office. One should be aware, though, that this isn’t accomplished overnight. It’s not a quick path to wealth, but something that is accomplished over several years. One of the first steps is a solid education.

Medical Billing and Coding Training and Certification in Alaska

In order to begin a medical billing and coding training program, a person needs a high school level education. Some programs will ask additional prerequisites and placement scores. The program will give students basic medical knowledge and an understanding of coding taxonomies, reimbursement systems, and legalities. It will also prepare them for national certification.

Certification is not required by the state of Alaska, but it is required by many of the region’s major employers. Some employers will specify a particular credentialing agency, while others will accept one of several. The two biggest names in medical coding certification are AAPC and AHIMA. AAPC offers a range of certifications. The basic credentials are designed to prepare coders to work in hospital or physician’s office settings; the more advanced demonstrate competency at coding specialty procedures like radiology or reconstructive surgery.

Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job outlook in Alaska

Higher levels of education can help a person achieve career goals sooner and also offer some protection against future economic downturns. Despite very rosy BLS projections, medical billing and coding experts, like people in most professions, find job opportunities scarcer in a recession. It helps to have more of the credentials employers seek. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, for example, asks for two years coding experience, but notes that education my be substituted. Two years of education translates into an associates degree at their facilities.

Some additional medical facilities where medical billing and coding specialists as well as health informatics professionals find work include Providence Alaska Medical Center, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Alaska Regional Hospital and Central Peninsula Regional Hospital. These facilities may not be hiring all the time but they are good places to begin a job search.

The Bureau of Labor classifies medical billing and coding with medical records and health information technology careers. Alaska is unique in that it is in the top five states in the nation both for percentage of workers employed in the industry (2.092 per thousand) and for pay ($39,490). Fairbanks has an unusually high percentage of workers in medical records and other health information technologies. At 3.559 per thousand, the city is ranked second among all the metropolitan areas in the nation. That doesn’t keep workers from enjoying a high salary, though. The Bureau of Labor reports that the average technician salary in Fairbanks is $40,600.

According to statistics by the Bureau of Labor, Alaska does not entirely follow the national trend of providing higher compensation in metropolitan regions. The Railbelt region has the highest wages, but the southeastern metropolitan regions are on a par with Anchorage. Wherever one lives, they can expect opportunities to increase with a proven mastery in the field, training and with years on the job.

The medical assistant programs in Alaska are another popular route to a career in Alaska’s allied health sector.

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