What Is a Medical Coder?
A medical coder is, in essence, a translator. As part of the medical team, the medical coder reviews the patient’s file and translates everything from that file into universal codes required by insurance companies. It’s the medical coder’s responsibility to make sure the right code is used every single time. It’s the only way to ensure the insurance companies are billed properly.
Everything that happens with the patient is translated and coded. This includes everything from diagnosis and treatment, to what supplies were used. The coder also indicates if there were any unusual circumstances during the visit or procedure.
A medical coder is different from a medical biller. A medical biller processes the insurance claims and follows up on them. They do not determine what codes are used in the insurance billing. However, a medical coder and a medical biller can be the same person if they have the proper training.
A medical coder does not have anything to do with the technological aspects of medical record keeping. Even though the word “code” is in the title, medical coders do not write code for computer programming. They also do not maintain medical records or have anything to do with ensuring the protection and safety of patient information stored electronically.
A medical coders’ job duties are the same no matter where they work. However, a medical coder can pursue certification in specific concentrations if they choose. While there are several medical coder certification organizations, there are some “standard” certifications.
There is the “intro level” certification that says you are a certified medical coder. You can also pursue other certifications, depending on where you want to work. For example, there are certifications for people who wish to work in doctor’s offices and certifications for people to work in hospital settings.
Medical Coding Salary and Growth Expectations
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes medical coders under “Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.” This term refers to everyone that reviews patient files, organizes patient data, and assigns clinical codes for insurance reimbursement (among other things).
This entire job category—including medical coders—is predicted to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028. This is “much faster than average” than other occupations, which is due, in part, to an aging population.
Pay varies for medical coders, depending on where you work. In 2018, the median salary for a medical coder was between $35,520 and $43,470.
What is the average salary for jobs related to “medical coder”?
The average salary for “medical coder” ranges from approximately $16.21 per hour for Medical Biller to $27.52 per hour for Senior Coder.
Salary information comes from 15,581 data points collected directly from employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months.
Please note that all salary figures are approximations based upon third party submissions to Indeed. These figures are given to the Indeed users for the purpose of generalized comparison only. Minimum wage may differ by jurisdiction and you should consult the employer for actual salary figures.
Medical Billing and Coding Salaries
Medical billers and medical coders perform similar functions, although their job description is not one in the same. That means that medical billers and coders do not always make the same in terms of salaries. Their annual pay rates can be similar, although there are many different factors to consider when healthcare facilities decide on those rates. Ultimately, it falls on the employer or health care facility, although there are several trends and consistencies.
Both medical billers and medical coders are classified as health information technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That organization releases annual salary rates for health information technicians, and the 2016 average salary checks in at $41,460 annually. However, that does not pinpoint what medical billers and coders earn throughout the country.
How Much Do Medical Coders Make?
In 2016, the average annual salary of a medical coder (certified and non-certified), was reported at $49,872. That salary is higher for medical coders with at least one certification as they average an annual pay rate of $52,588. Medical coders without a certification earn an average of $39,956 annually.
The AAPC survey also showed that medical coders in the Pacific part of the United States (Alaska, Hawaii, California, Washington) lead the way in terms of highest average salaries at $56, 704. Coming in second were medical coders in the Mid Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) as they average $54,007 per year. Medical coders in the New England states earn an average of $53,312 per year while the Mountain region sees its medical coders average $51,308 annually. The lowest paying region is the East South Central (Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee), where medical coders average $47,403 annually.