Medical Billing and Coding in Iowa
Medical billing and coding has grown to be a complex profession, one for highly trained individuals. It takes a surprising breadth and depth of knowledge to extract information from medical charts and assign it correct codes and modifiers. A medical coding specialist might, for example, need to determine the level of service (both evaluation and management) provided during an emergency room visit. To do so, he or she needs to make judgments about the complexity of data, the risk of complications, and how the patient’s own health history might have impacted decision making. The process requires far more than the ability to look items up in a coding taxonomy! Judgment errors can result in an insurance carrier being incorrectly billed. Documentation errors, on the other hand, may drag the process out longer than expected and give medical patients headaches long after their presenting symptoms have been cured.
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People may be attracted to the medical billing and coding profession for a number of reasons: because the duties mirror the kind of challenging academic tasks they enjoyed in school, because there are opportunities to either advance into positions of greater responsibilities or to transition into work from home positions.
Those with degrees in related fields may be at an advantage. Some employers, for instance, Trinity Regional Medical Center, sometimes consider clinical experience in place of coding experience.
Medical Billing and Coding Training in Iowa
Medical billing and coding training programs are available online and at traditional campus based institutions. Students can expect to learn medical terminology, medical law, ICD-9-CM and CPT-4 coding, medical insurance and finance issue, and compliance regulations.
Courses may be taught at the certificate or associates level. An associates level program would also include some general studies courses like composition, algebra, and critical thinking. These can actually be very helpful as job ads often specify competencies that are not field-specific, like excellent verbal and composition skills.
Sometimes medical billing and coding training is combined with other health information technologies programs like health informatics. This type of program allows a person to sit for RHIT or RHIA certifying examinations as well as examinations for coding specialists.
Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job outlook in Iowa
Academic decisions can be career decisions as well. A representative of Indian Hills Community College says that at IHCC, the coding aspect is the same for both the certificate program in medical billing and coding and the associates degree in health information technology. She confirms, though, what job postings suggest — that some employers look very favorably on that RHIT credential and the education it represents. Employer expectations can be surprising. A recent ad for application analyst billing at a medical center values two to four year degrees and prior job experience in an office setting.
Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, Saint Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids and Genesis Medical Center East in Davenport are good places to look for medical billing and coding specialist and HIT job postings to learn more about requirements at the larger employers in Iowa’s health care sector.
Excellence can take a person far, as a recent posting for HIM coder demonstrates. In addition to graduation from an accredited health information program and a high level of skill/ competence, the employer does desire some experience. But as little as two years experience can land one lucky medical coding specialist a position that pays in the $22.04 – $34.16 range. Medical coding accuracy is a big part of what helps a person advance.
AAPC, which conducted a nationwide survey of more than 10,000 coding specialists, lists an average salary of $39,238 for Iowa. The BLS categorizes medical billing and coding as a medical records and health information technology and reports average regional salaries. Iowa City leads the state with an average of $43,330. This may reflect the presence of major medical facilities. The greater Omaha metropolitan area, meanwhile, is listed at $34,610 and Dubuque at $31,660. The nonmetropolitan areas to the north also report averages above $30,000 while those in the southern part of the state are in the $29,000 to $30,000 range. The lowest wages ($24,100) are reported for Ames. Salaries somewhat below the average ($27,750) are reported for the greater Sioux City area which comprises parts of South Dakota and Nebraska as well as Iowa.
You may also want to check out the Medical Assisting programs in Iowa. Medical assisting is also a popular way to enter the allied health fields.