Medical Coding and Billing in Nebraska

Health Information and Technology Week was held November 7-13, 2010. A combined project of the Canadian Health Information Management Association (CHIMA) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), it was set aside to recognize the contributions of medical billing and coding specialists and other health information technology professionals.

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What’s so important about medical billing and coding experts? They play a vital role in reimbursement (getting medical services covered) and in health research as well. They abstract health information from patient charts and attach codes and modifiers to describe diagnoses, treatments, outcomes, and circumstances. In order to do so, they need a surprising amount of medical knowledge. Like other allied health professionals, they have a background in physiology and pathophysiology, medical terminology, and pharmacology. Among the things they made need to document: whether a condition or injury was work-related, whether there were co-morbid conditions or complicating factors, and what potential mortality risks influenced the physician’s decision-making. In some cases, it is even important to document whether a practitioner (a psychologist, for instance) had finished their medical training.

How do medical billing and coding specialists in Nebraska prepare for such a technical and precise career path? They complete a medical billing and coding program or a health informatics degree program. There are a number of medical billing and coding schools in Nebraska as well as health informatics degree programs offered at colleges and universities throughout the state or via an online format.

Medical Billing and Coding Training in Nebraska

Medical billing and coding training programs in Nebraska include classes in biomedics, ethical and legal issues, as well as medical coding and reimbursement. Longer courses may integrate the study of medical billing and coding with training in other areas of health information management. They will also likely include electives. There is educational value in coursework beyond the basics. Some employers ask for excellent oral communication and composition skills, including written conventions. Another common requirement is fluency with particular computer programs. Higher levels of education are often regarded as a signal to employers that one has the critical thinking skills and the academic aptitude to master on the job training.

The two main certifying agencies nationwide are AAPC and AHIMA. Some employers ask for a particular certification, for example, AAPC’s Certified Professional Coder (CPC) or AHIMA’s Certified Coding Specialist (CCS). Some will accept any of several certifications while others don’t require certification at all. Prospective medical billing and coding specialists should realize, though, that the field is growing more competitive. As people progress in the field, it is not uncommon for them to acquire multiple certifications.

In addition to basic certifications, AACP offers a number of specialty certifications to demonstrate expertise in areas like cardiology and pediatrics. Each requires the passing of a board examination. Generally, continuing education units are required as well.

Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job Outlook in Nebraska

A career in medical billing and coding affords opportunity for advancement. In a 2009 salary survey, the AAPC reported that certified workers had enjoyed an average 4% pay increase over the previous year, despite difficult economic times. Those with more advanced credentialing had had more monetary success.

It does take some time to work up to positions of responsibility. In a separate AAPC survey of about 12,000 medical billers and medical coders, 71% said that their employers had a preference for hiring experienced coders. A scan of job postings in December 2010 reveals that many, but not all, nationally advertised positions in Nebraska ask for previous experience in the field or in a closely related one. Workers with backgrounds in nursing are at an advantage due to their knowledge and clinical experience. Experience in the medical front office is also valued.

Some of the places that medical billing and coding specialists find work are with Bryan LGH Medical Center in Lincoln, Lincoln Surgical Hospital, Alegent Healthcare in Omaha and Blue Cross of Nebraska with locations in Lincoln, Omaha and Grand Island.

Ultimately, experienced medical coders make good incomes. The AAPC reports an average of $40,240 for Nebraska. Full-time jobs often provide benefits, though some workers prefer to transition into work from home opportunities instead. Sometimes it is possible to combine the two. According to the survey, approximately one in three medical billing and coding specialists were working from home at least a portion of the time.

Though you aren’t going to be able to work from home as a medical assistant, the career path is a great way to get started in the health care industry. The job growth projections are good and earning potential is promising relative to the required training. Check out the Medical Assisting programs in Nebraska.

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