The Future of Billing and Coding Programs
Medical Billing and Coding: Job Prospects & Earnings
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of medical records and health information technicians, a job category that includes medical billing and coding specialists, is expected to increase by 21% from 2010 to 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing fields in health care.
Some of the reasons for this growth include the health needs of a growing and aging baby boomer population, recent and upcoming changes to private and public health insurance, and the health care industry’s transition to digitized medical records. Here’s a closer look:
A Growing Senior Population
Advances in medical technology are allowing people to live longer, more active lives. By 2020, one out of six Americans will be 65 years or older. As the country’s senior citizen population increases, so will the demand for quality health care. Hospitals and other health care facilities will need highly skilled medical billing and coding specialists to accurately code patient records and submit and follow up claims for reimbursement from private and public insurance to help meet that demand.
Changes to Private and Public Health Insurance
Despite its detractors, obtaining affordable health care became a possibility for many uninsured Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act. As changes to the country’s private and public health insurance industries are rolled out, and as the number of insured Americans continues to grow, more medical billing and coding specialists will be needed to accurately process the increasing number of claims, answer questions from patients regarding their insurance, and help control insurance claim fraud and abusive practices.
Digitization of Medical Records
According to a May 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 50% of doctors’ offices and four in five hospitals have transitioned from paper to electronic medical records. The health care industry’s move to digitize medical records, made possible through more than $14 billion dollars in government incentives, has increased the demand for medical billing and coding specialists who can organize, accurately code, and maintain all of the medical data necessary for complete digital medical record keeping, as well as deal with the challenges and shortcomings of current information technology systems.
Remote Billing and Coding
Over the next decade, the number of medical billing and coding specialists employed remotely as independent contractors or employees by large, reputable employers is expected to grow. High gas prices, parking and highway congestion, and a premium on available, affordable office space are all contributing to this transition from the office to online.
Remote billing and coding specialists perform the same tasks as on-site specialists, including accessing patient medical records and coding and submitting claims accordingly, through a secure, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)-compliant Internet connection.
For information on medical billing and coding salaries, visit the salary page to find the average pay in this field according to state.
Changes to Medical Billing and Coding Programs
Although medical billing and coding specialists are not required to be certified, certification through nationally administered exams is expected to become the norm as early as 2020. As the job market becomes more competitive, employers are likely to favor billing and coding specialists who have completed a certificate or diploma program and are certified by either the American Health Information Management Association or the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
In October 2014, all health care providers covered by HIPAA, including state Medicaid programs, will switch to ICD-10 codes for their services and for hospital inpatient procedures. (CPT coding, both for outpatient procedures and for physician services, won’t be affected.) Medical billing and coding specialists already certified in an ICD-9 coding can maintain their certification by enrolling in ICD-10 training program, either at their job or through an organization like the AHIMA.