Medical billing and coding training cost deserve careful consideration. While this career enjoys strong projected growth, the salary range rarely justifies the rates that some heavily advertised commercial establishments charge. Fortunately, reputable and more reasonable options exist.
Get the right education.
Some employers require a degree in health informatics and health information management. Many degree programs prepare students for further professional credentials. Associate degree holders can take the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) exam to become a Registered Health Information Technologist (RHIT). Bachelor’s degree holders can take an exam to become a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA).
Other employers rely upon certifications such as the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) offered by AHIMA. They generally also accept the Certified Coding Professional (CPC) credential from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
It is not difficult to find a profit driven outfit charging upwards of $17,000 for a 12 month course. On a school website, seek the ‘disclosures’ link. They should have program costs and numbers showing how many students graduate from their courses. Then decide if graduating in debt for an entry-level job paying approximately $22K per year makes sense. Understand that the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median salary of a medical biller at $32K as of 2012.
Try your local community college for more competitive pricing. Of course, students are subject to the academic calendar and program admission requirements. However, a student comes out with at least a solid 2-year degree and the ability to sit for national certification exams.
Online schools abound on the Internet. Like in real life, exercise caution here too. Fortunately, both AHIMA and AAPC--sources of credentials in the coding profession--offer online coding courses. With either organization, a complete coding course plus books and the prerequisites of anatomy and physiology and medical terminology should add up to just under $2,500.
Whichever route you use it definitely pays to know that the entire medical billing and coding profession is in a state of change. On the positive side, it is growing faster than average. Meanwhile, standards are rapidly moving from the old ICD-9 system to the ICD-10 system in 2015. Additionally, automation is increasing in this field. Being technically savvy may be the best way to stay relevant in a niche that remains strongly embedded in medicine and insurance.