Everything You Need to Know about Being a Medical Billing Specialist
A medical biller, or medical billing specialist, is an essential part of the healthcare industry, saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that billing services are handled correctly. The specialist submits insurance claims to insurers, review payments and ensures the right person is billed or paid. Their average annual salary is in the range of $32,000 – $40,000.
Medical billing specialists are very crucial to the survival of the health care industry. As a medical biller, you are expected to ensure that billings are handled correctly so that the right company is paid for the services they’ve rendered. Your daily tasks will also include submitting and auditing claims for patient visits, registering patients and verifying their insurance coverage, and collecting information required to submit a claim. You also need to handle problems with billing, such as collecting calls or submitting claims when bills are overdue.
In addition to managing claims and payment processes, you may also need to deal with other duties like:
- Managing accounts receivable reports,
- answering patient’s billing questions,
- handling collections on unpaid accounts,
- and upholding hospital values by keeping collection information confidential.
While the responsibilities of a medical billing specialist are clearly defined based on general terms, some hospitals and employers have their own specific requirements and job duties.
- The AAPC notes that medical billers and medical coders may share the same responsibilities, or be required to work in unison.
- Teaching hospitals may have vacancies for medical billing specialists, and will often have access to industry-leading education and research.
- Work schedules are very flexible. In fact, there are work-from-home openings offered by some healthcare facilities. This is possible because, in most hospitals, most of the work is done electronically.
Medical billing specialists that work in the health facilities like hospitals and clinics are typically removed from where patient care is taking place. While you will be required to interact with physicians and their assistants to some extent, much of your work will be done far from most regular facility operations.
Acquiring the skills and knowledge needed to qualify as a medical biller is a multi-step process involving a formal education as well as various practical skills. Some of the talents that will be tested daily are your attention to detail, interpersonal abilities, trustworthy nature, as well as your technical and analytical skills.
To become a medical billing specialist, you’ll need to acquire post-secondary education. The programs offered will deal with topics that help students become familiar with medical insurance codes and terminologies. You will also need to develop excellent communication skills, delivering a good customer service experience is an integral part of the job. You should also expect to process many phone calls, interact with and report to hospital staff, and be seated for long periods of time.
Completing a Formal Education
You will need to complete a formal education so you can acquire all the technical knowledge you’ll need to function as a billing expert. There are different programs available at the certificate and associate levels. Both forms of training will cover the same general topics, however, those who have an associate degree have the chance to continue and receive Bachelor’s degree.
How Long Does the Training Last?
The average medical billing program is designed to be completed in three months of full-time study. If you don’t have the time for a physical class, you can apply for an online course that will allow for studying on your time. Those who choose online courses usually take as much as six months to complete their program, which is can be invaluable to students with other obligations.
What Do You Learn in the Medical Billing Program?
Courses on medical billing are designed to cover the following topics:
- Medical terminology and vocabulary
- Human anatomy
- How collections and billing work
- Understanding the basics of billing software tools
- Payment systems and reimbursement terminology
- Changes related to Affordable Care Act
- Introduction to medical coding
- Office communication
While a certification is not always a criterion to get a job as a medical billing specialist, employers will often expect it and give preference to job candidates who already have one. Professional certification includes Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), Certified Tumor Registrar, and Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS).
Where to Apply
Medical billers are needed in a variety of institutions within the health care industry including:
- Physicians’ offices
- Nursing care facilities
- Home health care services
- Residential care facilities
- Government agencies
If you prefer to work from home, you can seek employment as a remote medical biller working as a consultant for a facility.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of health information technicians like medical billers is expected to grow by about 15% by the year 2024. Currently, the median annual salary earned is in the range of $32,792 – $39,821.
Certification alone may not cut it if you want to grow in your career. Some employers specifically require candidates who have had some form of experience in a hospital or medical facility. The more you work in the field, the more you become relevant and valuable to future employers.
Consider Additional Training
Career advancement is something you might consider for a few reasons. Primarily, it can lead to management and administrative opportunities in insurance and healthcare industries. The hurdle most people face when seeking this type of advancement is a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management, which can help open doors to career paths.
With many hospitals struggling to fill medical biller spaces in their facility, becoming a medical billing specialist offers a tremendous career opportunity if you take the right steps to achieve it. With three months full-time training, you’ll be ready for employment. You can work in many places, including teaching hospitals, and earn a reasonable salary and while learning vital skills that will add value to the health system overall. Pursuing a better education can open the door for a better future in your career.