The health insurance industry includes a wide range of careers, from sales to insurance adjusters. There are also many jobs in the healthcare field that require training in health insurance, including medical insurance coding, billing and reimbursement. A health insurance specialist program focuses on the processes and the administrative and technical skills needed to work in the insurance industry or in a medical office setting. Although it's not required by law, many students earn associate degrees to work as medical insurance billing and coding technicians in hospitals, medical clinics and many other healthcare settings. A high school diploma is required for entrance into these degree programs, as well as completion of a vocational exam and basic computer knowledge. Bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and certification programs are available in related fields.
Health Insurance Specialist Associate Degree Programs
Codes associated with procedures and diagnostic tests and other medical services are used to process health insurance claims, so medical billing or coding specialists are also needed in the health insurance settings, including the billing and reimbursement departments of medical complexes and hospitals. Program coursework covers many aspects of the health insurance industry, medical office practices and medical information systems. Classes cover both medical and insurance procedures, with a focus on coding and billing practices. Typical areas taught include:
- Medical terminology
- Health insurance billing practices
- Procedure coding
- Information management
- Medical insurance legalities
Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Associate Degree Programs
According to a 2005 survey by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), 73% of employers felt that some type of educational accreditation was the most important factor in hiring medical coders (www.ahima.org). An associate degree program teaches students how to work in a healthcare setting, code specific medical procedures and submit bills to health insurance companies for medical services that have been rendered. Coursework focuses on office procedure, medical coding systems and health insurance knowledge. Classes can include:
- Clinical procedures coding
- Information Systems
- Medical office procedures
- Health insurance billing
- Medical terminology
Popular Career Options
Health insurance specialists can find work in the health claims department of insurance companies, in hospital administration or as independent health insurance salespeople. Possible specific job titles include:
- Collections manager
- Reimbursement specialist
- Insurance claims examiner
- Insurance verification specialist
- Health insurance agent
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for medical records and health information technicians are expected to increase 15% from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). This significant increase is due to recent federal legislation making electronic medical records mandatory and a projected increase in the need for healthcare services as the population ages.
The mean annual wage for medical record technicians working in a hospital was $43,080 according to the May 2015 BLS statistics. Those who worked in the offices of doctors made $34,940, while those working in nursing home facilities earned around $37,550 a year.
Continuing Education Information
After graduating from an associate degree program, many medical billing and coding technicians take additional classes and exams to become certified Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT). Over sixty-seven percent of medical workers with additional credentials earn more than their non-credentialed colleagues, according to the AIHMA's 2005 study on health information professions. Some health insurance specialists return to school to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in a field related to healthcare administration. A baccalaureate or advanced degree in this area allows students to advance their careers into management or more technical positions. Career options with an advanced degree include: hospital billing coordinator, medical office manager, claims processing manager, health insurance claims adjuster and healthcare insurance underwriter.
Those wishing to build a future in the medical insurance arena have several degree program and career options they can pursue. They may then continue on to receive additional schooling in related health care fields and pursue an advanced career.