Medical Coding and Billing in South Carolina
Medical billing and coding is a high skill occupation in South Carolina. A common thread in job postings for medical billing and coding specialists in late 2010 is that candidates must possess good analytical and critical thinking skills. Why? One reason is the changing nature of medical knowledge. New procedures are developed, and new diagnoses come into vogue. Medical billing and coding specialists must have some knowledge of medical procedures to extract the most relevant information. A single office visit, moreover, can require a dozen codes and modifiers. Documentation of a person’s secondary diagnoses can be imperative. Issues about whether a procedure is medically necessary can be a big reimbursement issue.
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Continuing education is necessary for a medical coding specialist. Employers want someone who possesses not just knowledge of medical terminology but knowledge of current medical terminology. Yesterday’s diagnoses go by the wayside. It’s the same with the regulations and policies of government agencies and third party payers; these are constantly being updated.
A certain finesse with human interaction is also desirable. A recent ad asks for candidates who can problem solve to make sure that specialist doctor bills are reimbursed without undue delay. The ad notes that the medical coder must be able to handle large quantities of correspondence.
If you have the foundation skills, you should investigate pursuing formal education in medical billing and coding. There are many options for medical billing and coding training in South Carolina including health informatics and health information technology degree programs.
Medical Billing and Coding Training in South Carolina
There are people within the field who were trained on the job, but positions are growing more competitive. While employers often favor candidates with experience, those in South Carolina will sometimes accept graduation from an accredited medical billing and coding program and/ or certification in lieu of experience.
What is an approved program? AHIMA maintains a list of short certificate programs in medical coding while CAHIIM accredits associate and bachelor level programs in health information technology. The designations RHIT and RHIA indicate competency in various areas of health information and technology and require degree completion as well as testing. The designations CCA or CCS, granted by AHIMA, and CPC, granted by the AAPC, also demonstrate knowledge of coding. They do not require graduation, but do require a lot of knowledge and are generally not achievable without considerable education and/ or field experience. The easiest certification to achieve is the CCA, which stands for certified coding associate, and is considered entry level.
Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Job Outlook in South Carolina
The BLS lists an average salary of $31,770 for South Carolina. Their data suggests that salaries are higher in Columbia than in many other parts of the state.
Actual salaries vary by job setting and educational level as well as years in the field. An entry level billing/ coding position (as business office associate) in Lexington, which was posted in late 2010, listed $10.41 per hour as compensation. A position as accounts receivable specialist at the same facility paid $11.37 and listed six months as office associate as an example of acceptable job experience. The lesson in this is that a person can work for part of a year as office staff, gaining trust as well as experience, and then transition into a job that better reflects their skills. This is the way that people typically move up within the industry.
How does one get the quickest start? Sometimes the path involves externships, which are unpaid work opportunities that can be completed while earning a certificate or degree. A Heald College representative has noted that externships are about more than just gaining skills. Sometimes they turn into permanent work opportunities.
The potential for advancement is almost unlimited. What types of positions does one find available for experienced coders? A billing supervisor position was recently listed in Columbia. It required a bachelors and a minimum of five years of experience and had a salary range of $70,000 to $85,000. Relocation assistance was even available for the right candidate.
Other places that medical billing and coding specialists find jobs in South Carolina include Roper Hospital in Charleston, Palmetto Health which is comprised of Palmetto Health Richland, Palmetto Health Baptist, Palmetto Health Heart Hospital, and Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia, Providence Hospital in Columbia and Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
The first step to take is to find a medical billing and coding program, health informatics program or a health information technology or management program in SC that can help prepare you for the certifications and entry-level medical billing and coding jobs.
You may also want to check out the medical assistant schools in South Carolina. Medical assisting is another rapidly growing profession that requires less of a training time commitment.