HCC Coder Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a hierarchical condition categories (HCC) coder. Learn about education, certification requirements, and salary potential to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Computer Programming degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a HCC Coder Do?

HCC coders help hospitals and other healthcare facilities track patient information in order to send correct bills and maintain accurate records. This job may include looking back at patients records to ensure accuracy, keeping databases organized and using specialized classification software. They may also be tasked with keeping records of treatment outcomes. In all these cases they are responsible for maintaining patient confidentiality. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about this field.

Education Required Associate's degree or certificate
Education Field of Study Medical coding, medical billing, health information technology
Key Responsibilities Data entry, record keeping, quality assurance, confidentiality
Licensure/Certification Certification preferred
Job Growth (2014-2024) 15% (for all medical records and health information technicians)*
Median Salary (2015) $37,110 (for all medical records and health information technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is an HCC Coder?

HCC coding is a specific type of medical classification system used by health information technicians and medical billing and coding specialists. As an HCC coder, your job is to translate patient histories, symptoms, diagnoses and treatments into codes using an established system. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can then use those codes for billing and record-keeping purposes.

With HCC coding skills, you can work in hospitals, nursing homes, insurance agencies or contract your services to several health care providers. Job titles include coding specialist, manager, trainer, auditor or analyst.

What Educational Programs Are Available?

If you're interested in working as a professional HCC coder, consider completing a certificate or associate's degree program in medical coding or health information technology. These programs are typically offered through community colleges, vocational institutions and technical schools. While formal education is not always required, graduating from an accredited academic program could improve your employment opportunities and qualify you for professional certification.

A medical billing certificate or degree program provides you with a basic understanding of medical terminology, human anatomy, physiology and medical facility regulations. You'll also learn the basics of coding procedures, guidelines and principles, as well as international classification standards. Programs generally provide you with the practical and technical skills through practicum hours or internship experiences.

Will I Need Certification?

Though not required, it's recommended that you obtain certification if you plan to become a professional HCC coder. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many healthcare organizations prefer to hire coding professionals that demonstrate a thorough understanding of coding standards through certification (www.bls.gov). You can earn specific credentials through organizations, such as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Professional Coders. You can choose among several types and levels of certification to establish your expertise in the field, as well as specialties in such areas as pediatrics, auditing or compliance. Eligibility requirements vary by organization and credential, though college-level education and experience are generally recommended.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

Medical records and health information technicians, including those proficient in HCC coding, earned a median annual salary of over $37,110 in 2015, according to the BLS. Around 189,930 individuals were employed in the field in that year, and the majority worked for general medical and surgical hospitals or private physicians' offices. Among all medical records and health information technicians, the highest-paid were employed in the 'other professional, scientific, and technical services' industry, averaging over $52,940, per BLS data.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Outside of the medical field information clerks typically maintain records in databases. They may also be tasked with collecting data and sharing requested information. Some information clerks get by with a high-school diploma, but many employers prefer those with an associate's degree. Medical transcriptionists take voice recordings from doctors and nurses and enters that data as text in databases. They often use specialized transcribing and classification software. These professionals usually have a post-secondary certificate or an associate's degree.

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