Ranging from eight weeks to approximately two years, certificate and associate's degree programs in medical billing and coding offer coursework in Medicare billing, alongside training in general medical billing methods. Both types of programs cover basic medical terminology and explain the infrastructure of insurance systems. Some of these programs feature online study options. Students who want to continue their education can choose bachelor's degree programs that focus on business administrative practices pertaining to healthcare organizations. Medical billing and coding education programs often prepare students to sit for national certification exams like the one offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders.
- Program Levels: Certificate; associate's degree
- Prerequisites: High school diploma
- Online Availability: Some programs offer online options
- Program Length: 8 weeks-18 months for certificate programs; two years for associate's degree
Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding
Certificate programs in medical billing and coding are designed to impart the skills necessary for processing healthcare transactions, including basic medical terminology, patient file management and the intricacies of various insurance systems. Processing Medicare claims is usually taught later in the program so students have the educational foundation to contextualize the Medicare system. Medicare billing issues, home health benefits, women's health benefits and payment reimbursement are all points covered in handling Medicare billing processes. Certificate programs for medical billing take between eight weeks and 18 months to complete and are generally made up of 6-18 courses. Some programs are offered completely online to fit a student's personal needs. Subject matter relating to Medicare billing may include:
- Medicare eligibility
- Federal mandates regarding Medicare
- Processing Medicare claim forms
- Identifying Medicare insurance cards
- Fraud and abuse in Medicare
Associate Degree in Medical Billing and Coding
Associate degrees in medical billing and coding may be earned through traditional and online degree programs. The comprehensive curriculum in these programs trains students in computer technology, insurance industry issues, administrative functions and the submission of medical claims. Medicare law and billing practices are discussed and compared to Veterans Affairs, private, state and federal insurances to give a broad-spectrum overview of various reimbursement practices. Associate's degree programs offer coursework in Medicare billing procedures in conjunction with some general education requirements, including anatomy and physiology. Some other topics of study include:
- Medical terminology
- Insurance laws and regulations
- Coding and billing software
- Completion and submission of medical claims
- Ethics in insurance coding and billing
- Basic pharmacology
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Medical records and health information technician opportunities are expected to increase by as much as 22% between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); this is faster-than-average growth compared to other occupations (www.bls.gov). Medical records and health information technicians earned a median annual salary of $35,900 in 2014, the BLS stated. There are positions available for medical records and health information technicians in a number of organizations, but the most lucrative salaries are offered in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing positions. The BLS reported an average yearly salary of $50,170, as of May 2014, for those employed in the pharmaceutical industry. According to the BLS, the increased use of medical services by an aging population and general growth in the healthcare and social assistance industries will contribute to a projected job growth among medical secretaries of 36%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the BLS reported, the median annual salary for medical secretaries was $32,240.
The bachelor's degree program most closely related to medical billing and coding is a health information management degree. The coursework combines skills in computer sciences, business organization, health sciences and healthcare management. Students learn how to understand and analyze procedural practices in healthcare organizations relating to coding, billing, human resource management, patient intake and reimbursements. Graduates are prepared to work in administrative or supervisory healthcare positions.