To be properly reimbursed for services, hospitals and physicians need to identify the services rendered with codes that the insurance companies use. Medical records technicians who specialize in coding patient records are called medical coders. They use a classification system software to assign a code to each diagnosis and procedure. The system determines the amount of the reimbursement based on the patient’s insurance coverage. The American Academy of Professional Coders and the Professional Association of Health care Coding Specialists are two organizations that offer certification for medical coders, which ensures the coder has a professional knowledge of the work.
Hospital medical coders earned an average of $16.29 an hour or $33,880 a year in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The middle 50 percent of medical coders earned between $24,870 and $40,540 a year. There were 170,580 medical records and health information technicians in the country In 2009, who worked as medical coders either full-time or part-time as part of their other job duties.
Pay by State
The state that paid its medical coders the most in 2009 was New Jersey, where salaries averaged $45,750 a year, according to the BLS. Other top-paying states include: Hawaii, Washington D.C., Alaska and Maryland. The state with the highest concentration of medical coders was South Dakota, which had 2.54 medical records and health information technicians per 1,000 workers. Other high-concentration states included: Alaska, Mississippi, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Pay by Metro Area
The metropolitan area that paid its medical coders the most in 2009 was Newark-Union, New Jersey-Pennsylvania, where wages averaged $51,390 a year, according to the BLS. Other top-paying metropolitan areas include: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, California; Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton, New Jersey and Edison-New Brunswick, New Jersey. The metropolitan area with the highest concentration of medical coders was Huntington-Ashland, West Virginia-Kentucky-Ohio, which had 3.784 medical records and health information technicians per 1,000 workers. Other high-concentration metropolitan areas included Fairbanks, Arkansas and Bloomington, Indiana.
The medical coder profession should grow much faster than average between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS. During that time, the number of positions should increase by 20 percent. The growth will come from an increasing number of aging people who need medical care. They will need to have tests run, all of which will require coding. What will help applicants get positions is if they know the necessary technology and computer software well.