Medical Coding & Billing – Decoded
In your initial research about the medical coding and billing field, you'll run across a lot of acronyms – it's as if coders can't get enough! DMEPOS, ICD-9-CM, PPACA... it's all too east to confuse one for the other, but that doesn't mean you aren't medical coding schooling material. Here's an abbreviated list (pun intended) of some of the terms you will need to know before your courses begin.
AAPC - American Academy of Professional Coders
CCA - Certificate of Compliance Agreement
CEU - Continuing Education Units
CIRCC™ - Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder. A certification program for coders specializing in radiology. Apparently coders with this specialty are the highest paid!
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CLIA - Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988
CMS - Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
CPC® - Certified Professional Coder. A certification program for coders in physicians offices.
CPC-H® - Certified Professional Coder - Hospital. A certification program for coders working in an outpatient hospital.
CPC-P® - Certified Professional Coder - Payer. A certification program for payer perspective coding.
CPT® - Current Procedural Terminology. A medical coding set.
CPCO™ - Certified Professional Compliance Offer. A medical compliance certification.
CPMA™ - Certified Professional Medical Auditing. Medical chart auditing certification.
DMEPOS - Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies
EMTALA - Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986
HCPCS - Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System. A medical coding language.
HHS - The US Department of Health and Human Services
HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
ICD-9 - International Classification of Diseases. A medical coding set.
ICD-9-CM - International Classification of Diseases - Clinically Modified.
ICD-10 - The International Classification of Diseases coding set that will replace ICD-9-CM in the fall of 2013.
NCCI - National Correct Coding Initiative
PPACA - The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010
The idea of studying medical coding hopefully is less initimidating now that you've seen the patterns in these acronyms. A fully-immersed and certified medical coder's daily grind is a lot less complicated than it probably seems to you now.
One major misconception about Medical Coding & Billing is that you can work from home immediately upon landing a job, with a coffee pot brewing mere feet from your desk and an agreeable salary on the horizon. Realistically, it can take several years of work in a practice or hospital before gaining the level of trust and the number of quality referrals necessary to work without direct supervision. There are some exceptions to the rule, of course, and some certified medical coders start their own business coding for practices who outsource.
Working from home and working for yourself: two alternative ways to define the American Dream of the working class. Neither of these things are impractical or unrealistic to the modern student: in just a decade, medical coding specialist jobs increased almost 50%! (2000-2010)
Within a couple of years of obtaining proper certification, the average salary for a medical coder is $44,000 per annum. It's unfair, really, to peg down what your salary could be on a yearly basis as average salaries can double or triple based on location, experience, specialty, and training. As noted above, the highest paid CPC specializes in radiology and has CIRCC credentials.
You would be wise to use discrimination when researching educational courses and resources. Unfortunately, there's an abundance of medical coding "degree" programs whose courses are designed to give pupils an unnecessary coding certification that may not be seen as essential to your future employer. To be fair, some certifications may flatter your resume and open a couple of doors for you career-wise, yet few truly provide any useful substance beyond the extracurricular.