Medical Coding and Billing in Illinois

As the medical profession grows more complex and more adept, the medical billing and coding profession does as well. The same holds true with reimbursement and compliance issues. As programs grow in complexity, they become areas of specialization for highly educated workers. In fact, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) has already resulted in the creation of a new specialty certification by the American Association of Professional Coders.

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There are a range of duties medical coders may be asked to perform. Probably the best known duty is assigning diagnostic and procedural codes. Medical facilities may also have medical coding specialists check the accuracy and completeness of charts. Medical billing specialists may investigate denied claims and follow through on missing or incomplete medical documentation.

Medical Billing and Coding Training in Illinois

Backgrounds in healthcare management or accounting may be looked upon favorably by employers. It is becoming more rare, though, for a medical billing and coding specialist to receive on the job training. Most employers want billers and coders who are already very adept at what they do.

The first step, then, is selecting an medical billing and coding training program or a health Informatics degree program in Illinois that will meet long term goals and provide preparation for national certification. There are two options: a course of study that focuses exclusively on medical billing and coding or one that incorporates other health information technologies. Illinois employers generally recognize a range of AHIMA and AAPC certifications; some will value CCSP credentialing as well. It should be noted, though, that Illinois has a very active AHIMA community.

Some people with medical coding experience decide to pursue specialty certification down the road. For them, the process may be a little different. A person with experience in a specialized medical facility may want certifications that reflects this expertise. AAPC offers twenty specialty certifications in areas from rheumatology to pediatrics. Each requires a person to demonstrate general coding competency as well as mastery in the area of specialization. One specialty credential is CHONC, or Certified Hematology and Oncology Coder. A person with this credential is an expert in coding such procedures as bone marrow biopsies and aspiration, chemotherapy, therapeutic phlebotomy, and hydration services.

Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job outlook in Illinois

Good decision making at the onset can make for a smoother school-to-work transition later. A representative of Danville Community College advises that students who want to advance beyond entry level positions take an associate level program at the onset. She notes that employers look more favorably upon those with the more advanced RHIT credentialing and that this may be especially true with the coming transition from ICD-9-CM to ICD-10-CM coding. She further notes that once a person has an associate’s degree in health information technology, there are many online options for completing a baccalaureate.

What can an Illinois professional hope to earn? Salary in the billing and coding industry can be quite variable. One determining factor is job setting. There is tremendous opportunity for advancement in hospital settings, though it can be hard to get that first position. Some people get a foot in the door by taking lesser positions at their desired workplace. There are positions open that even a person with a certificate will be overqualified for. For instance, Blessed Physician Services posted in late 2010 for a coding assistant. The coding assistant needed to be willing to take a medical terminology class — something a certified coder has already done. Positions in the front office can be another viable option.

John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County located in Chicago, Evanston Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago are the largest employers in the Illinois health sector and have large medical billing and coding departments or contract with medical billing and coding companies. Finding a position at one of these facilities could lead to a long and health career in the medical billing or medical coding field in Illinois.

Geography is another factor which influences salary. Coding experts in the greater Chicago area earn substantially more than those in the rest of the state The AAPC lists a salary of $48,020 for those in the Chicago metropolitan area and $35,947 downstate, making for an overall state average of $40,991.

Check out the Medical Assisting programs in Illinois for another exciting and promising path to the allied health field.

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