How to Become an Insurance Coder in 5 Steps
Research what it takes to become an insurance coder. Learn about education requirements, job duties, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information At a Glance
Insurance coders, also called medical coders, are one type of medical records and health information technician. They assign medical procedure codes to medical bills sent to insurance companies. Below is table that lists some quick facts about insurance coders.
|Degree Required||Certificate or associate's degree|
|Certification||Voluntary; may be preferred by employers|
|Key Skills||Strong attention to detail and ability to work with computers|
|Key Responsibilities||Translate coded medical records into insurance paperwork|
|Job Growth (2012-2022)*||22% for all medical records and health information technicians|
|Median Salary (2013)*||$34,970 for all medical records and health information technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Is an Insurance Coder?
As an insurance coder, you would use your knowledge of medical terminology and insurance coding to translate medical records into insurance paperwork. The system of codes is used to determine how much insurance companies should reimburse patients and doctors. You need to have a strong attention to detail and be able to work well with computers as many health records become electronic.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
In high school you should focus on classes in mathematics, biology, health and computers. A basic understanding of human anatomy and medicine can be helpful to understanding the diagnoses and treatments that you'll be converting into codes.
Step 2: Attend a Training Program
Most medical coders have at least a certificate in medical coding or an associate's degree in health information technology. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) lists approved coding certificate programs (www.ahima.org) while the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) accredits associate's and higher-level degree programs (www.cahiim.org).
Step 3: Find a Job
You could work at a variety of healthcare institutions, such as hospitals, private doctors' offices, outpatient facilities, long-term care facilities and home healthcare service companies. You may also be able to find employment with an insurance company or public health department.
Step 4: Get Certified
You may choose to seek a professional certification to demonstrate your knowledge and ability. The American Academy of Professional Coders and AHIMA both offer various levels of certifications for medical coders. You may be required to have completed a training program or to have some years of work experience before you are eligible to take the certification exam.
Step 5: Advance Your Career
After working in the field for some years, you may want to advance in your career. You can use your experience to become a supervisor, overseeing coding procedures. In smaller facilities, you may be able to advance to a director or assistant director of the medical records and health information department.
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