There are a lot of scams out there in work-from-home job listings, but medical billing and coding from home is a legitimate way to earn a solid income. You don't even need a degree!
What is Medical Billing and Coding?
Medical billing and coding are critical pieces of healthcare administration. Any time you visit a clinic or hospital, your healthcare provider needs to bill you and/or your insurance company so they can get paid. This happens in a few steps:
- Your healthcare provider dictates or makes notes on the services they provided, along with your diagnosis and treatment.
- A medical transcriptionist ensures that electronic health records accurately reflect the doctor's notes.
- A medical coder translates the relevant information into standard classification systems, including the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), Current Procedure Terminology (CPT), and the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS).
- A medical biller submits the claim to an insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid, or another payer. They have to follow up, make corrections, and ensure the claim is accepted, then send an invoice to the patient for any balance due.
Some employers split medical coding and medical billing into separate jobs – typically large employers who process lots of paperwork. In other cases, you may be asked to perform both roles.
What Skills Do Medical Billing and Coding Require?
Medical coding and medical billing both require close attention to detail. It's easy to mix up similar medical terms or standardized codes if you're not paying attention, and with potentially disastrous results. Coders in particular are held to a 95% coding quality standard, with quarterly audits. Coding is essentially a complicated, specialized form of data entry. It's not for everyone.
Both roles also require strong computer skills and the ability to maintain patient confidentiality. On a practical level, you need a secure internet connection to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules. Since medical billers spend a lot of time communicating with healthcare providers, patients, insurance companies, and others, it's important to have excellent communication skills – oral and written.
What is the Job Outlook and Average Salary For Medical Coding and Billing?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that medical billing and coding jobs will grow twice as fast as average (8%) by 2029. This means there's a high demand for candidates to fill these jobs. The national average salary for medical billing and coding is $42,630 per year in 2019, according to the BLS. That's $20.50 an hour.
The upper 90th percentile makes $71,150! Medical billing and coding pay varies by state, as well as by specialty or employer. Generally speaking, larger medical practices and multi-site health networks have higher salaries. Specialty coders also earn more by focusing on medical specialties, like cardiology or pediatrics. Once you've been a medical coder and/or medical biller for a while, you can advance to positions like manager, auditor, instructor, or compliance officer.
Can You Do Medical Coding and Billing From Home?
Remote jobs in medical coding and billing are increasingly common. According to the Health Information Management (HIM) Professional Census 2020, more than 50% of coders are fully remote now, and only 17% are entirely on-site. Presumably, the remaining 33% have a hybrid arrangement with their employer. The only catch: as a new coding and/or billing professional, you may not be able to work remotely right away.
Medical billing and coding jobs from home require a certain amount of trust between employers and employees. You're accessing sensitive information and doing a job with potentially serious consequences. Employers need to be sure you can do your job well. Traditionally, that means many companies have required all new hires begin onsite. But remote work was already becoming a staple before 2020, and some billing and coding professionals believe COVID-19 will accelerate the shift, so these conventions may not hold.
How to Become a Medical Biller and Coder From Home
While it's possible to get into medical coding and billing through on-the-job experience, the 2019 AAPC Annual Salary Survey notes that Certified Professional Billers (CPBs) or Certified Professional Coders (CPCs) earn up to 33% more than their non-certified counterparts. Training and certification may also allow you to go remote sooner than learning on the job since you can already demonstrate competence.
Step 1: Study Medical Coding and Billing with a Reputable School
There are a few options for education. One option is an associate degree, which takes up to two years. More often, you can choose a postsecondary certificate program that will cover the information you really need in four to six months. Handily, during COVID-19, you can find reputable online schools with medical billing and coding programs (including us!).
You'll study medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, health data requirements and standards, classification and coding systems, healthcare reimbursement methods, and more. Just make sure you're selecting a school and not a scam. Check how long they've been around and what other professionals think of them. Question any program that seems "too good to be true."
Step 2: Pass a Widely Recognized Medical Billing and Coding Certification Exam
We mentioned CPB and CPC credentials, which are certifications offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Another well-known accrediting organization is the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). They offer equivalent certifications like the Certified Coding Associate (CCA), which is an entry-level certificate, and Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), which is a hospital-level certification. Additionally, there is a version of the CCS credential intended for physician's offices instead. It's called Certified Coding Specialist- Physician-based (CCS-P).
Finally, there is an accrediting organization called the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). They offer a cluster of medical career certifications, including the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) designation. CBCS credentials are especially well-suited for a job with a health insurance company. That's important because many remote medical coding and billing jobs are with health insurance companies.
Step 3: Start Your Search for Remote Medical Coding and Billing Jobs
Apply for work-from-home medical billing and coding jobs, but also look for jobs that will give you the option for remote work once you've passed a probationary period on-site. Getting one of those jobs may be a more practical expectation for new coders or billers. Many job descriptions will specify a certain number of years of experience. Anything that asks for 2 years of experience is an entry-level job, and you should apply even if you have no experience. Highlight your courses and certification(s), along with any relevant work experience – and we don't just mean billing and coding experience or jobs in the healthcare industry.
If you have experience with data entry, customer service, computer software, following strict guidelines, or organizing heavy workloads, you'll be able to apply what you learned in those other jobs to your new career. These are called transferrable skills. The cover letter on your job application (which is often more like a cover email, these days) is a great place to explain your transferrable skills and highlight relevant accomplishments.
Study with Us Using MyCAA Grant Money
If you're a military spouse, then remote medical billing and coding work can provide a steady income no matter how often you PCS. That's why the DOD includes medical coding and medical billing in its list of portable careers that are eligible for Military Spouse Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarship funds. We're a MyCAA eligible school with over 40 years of vocational distance learning experience – 20 of them online. Medical billing and coding is one of our most popular offerings. Contact us today to learn how we can help you get started on your new career!