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How Much Do Medical Coders Make?

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Medical coders work in a variety of different settings and enjoy a relatively high average salary.  They must usually undergo considerable training in order to enter the field and may need further training, possibly in more specialized areas, in order to reach the higher levels of pay.  Medical coders translate healthcare professional’s patient notes into current procedural terminology, or CPT, codes which aid the insurance companies align treatment to the correct billing for payment.  This medical and/or billing code is then passed to the patient’s healthcare insurer so that they can correctly reimburse the healthcare provider.  So, for example, when a patient visits his or her doctor, this requires a code to be sent to the patient’s healthcare insurer; when he or she receives an ex-ray, this requires another code; when he or she is referred to a different unit, this requires another code, and so on, and so on. All in all, there are approximately 10,000 of these codes.

Where Do Medical Coders Work?

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Medical coders can work in many different settings.  These include: hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, outpatient care-centers and so on.  In addition, they may work in less traditional arenas such as law firms, insurance agencies and consulting firms. Increasingly, the possibility of working from home is becoming more realistic in this growing profession, and many people are choosing the “stay at home” option to save on gas money and produce more efficient results for their employers.  Working at home has its own challenges though, and it’s certainly not for everyone.  It takes a unique personality to work from home, but a number of medical coders are doing it every day quite successfully.

What Are The Qualifications Required To Become A Medical Coder?

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It is possible to secure employment with either an associate’s degree in medical coding or with medical coding certification.  However those with certification and a bachelor’s or master’s degree in coding will almost invariably secure a better salary than those who possess just one of the two.

When pursuing a degree in medical coding, ensure that your course offers at least the following components: anatomy and physiology, pharmacology; coding pathology, ICD-9 and CPT; surgical coding CPT; medical terminology; non-surgical coding; radiology; healthcare laws and ethics; insurance abuse; and fraud Insurance compliance.

When looking to become suitably qualified for a career in medical coding, there are two principle certifications that you might consider.  The first of these is the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC’s) CPC certification, and the second of these is the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA’s) CCS Certification.  Both of these certifications are well established and regarded as being the most reputable of the various certifications on offer.  Both of these exams are extremely competitive, however, with pass-rates of around 50 percent.  Of these two qualifications, the CPC is the most well known and on passing you will be awarded either the CPC-A certificate, if you have less than 2 years experience in the field, or the CPC certificate, if you have more than two years experience in the field.  These certificates are your gateway to the medical coding industry.

Once you have completed the CPC exam, or the CCS exam, and have gained some additional experience you will have the opportunity to take more specialized exams if you choose, for example the CPPM exam, or Certified Professional Practice Manager.  Further certification in more specialized areas can often lead to a higher salary.

How Much Do Medical Coders Earn?

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A medical coder’s salary is highly dependent upon experience and, to an even greater extent, qualifications.  So for, example, someone holding a master’s degree with 20 years experience and a CPCO qualification (Certified Professional Compliance Officer) would expect to command a much higher salary than a CPC-A holder with no college degree and no experience.

Let’s look at salaries in a bit more detail:  The AAPC reports that there is very little unemployment among medical coders, less than 2 percent, and that, on average, a certified medical coder earns approximately 47,000 dollars per year.

As previously mentioned, experience has a reasonably large influence on salary; with two years experience in the industry, the average salary for a certified coder jumps to almost 49,000 dollars per year.  And,  with more than 15 years experience in the industry, the salary, unsurprisingly, increases even more, to approximately 56,700 dollars per year.  Experience has very little influence on salary after twenty years however, with any increase being negligible.

Even more important than experience are qualifications.  The AAPC reports that holders of a Certified Professional Coders qualification (CPC) have an average salary of around 48,500 dollars; holders of a Certified Professional Coders Hospital Outpatient (CPC-H) certification, receive on average around $56,000; holders of a Certified Professional Coder Payer (CPC-P) qualification enjoy average salaries of approximately $58,000; holders of a Certified Professional Practice Manager (CPPM) certification have an average salary of about $60,000; holders of a Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA) certificate have salaries, on average, of over $61,000, holders of a Certified Professional Biller (CPB) certificate receive, on average, a salary of almost $61,700; and holders of a Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO) certificate earn, on average, almost $70,000.

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The message is clear:  More, and more specialized, qualifications can mean a considerably higher salary.

Surprisingly, states with higher cost of living requirements don’t display increased salaries in this profession.  Let’s have a look at average salaries by location; specifically by state…

The States With The Highest Average Salaries For Certified Medical Coders

The state with the highest average salary is New York, where employees enjoy an average salary of $54,000 dollars per year.  This state is closely followed by Mississippi, with an average salary of $53,000 dollars per year, and Massachusetts at $52,000 dollars per year.

The States With The Lowest Average Salaries For Certified Medical Coders

If you live in Hawaii, I hope you enjoy the sun and surf as you will also enjoy the lowest average salary for certified medical coders:  $32,000 dollars a year.  I’m sure South Dakota has many positives, but the average salary for a certified medical coder isn’t one:  just $36,000 dollars per year.  And Nebraska may have the world’s largest indoor rain forest in Omaha, but it doesn’t have a high average salary for certified medical coders:  just $37,000 dollars per year.

Average Salaries For Certified Medical Coders In Other States

The great state of Texas has an average salary for certified medical coders of $43,000 per year; North Carolina:  $45,000 dollars per year; Pennsylvania:  $40,000 dollars per year; and Alaska:  $39,000 dollars per year.

What Kind Of People Make Good Medical Coders?

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Medical coders must primarily display good attention to detail; medical insurance claims often run into the tens of thousands, or even the millions, and so, understandably, insurers like to see exactly what any money claimed is for.  Medical Coders must also demonstrate good organizational skills as they will often be responsible for tens of thousands of patients and need to be able to keep, and quickly access, accurate records of each and every one.  Medical coders must also have good interpersonal skills as they may have to communicate frequently with others in order to ensure records are kept accurate and that all claims are submitted promptly.  Moreover, they must enjoy learning as codes are constantly changing and medical coders need to keep abreast of these changes; and, to advance their career, they will probably need to obtain further qualifications.  Perhaps most importantly, medical coders must show a high degree of professionalism in their work as they are dealing with what most people would agree are two extremely important things: large sums of moneys and health.

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