Insurance Billing Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about an insurance billing specialist's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read real job descriptions and see the pros and cons of becoming an insurance billing specialist.
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Pros and Cons of Insurance Billing Specialist Careers

Insurance billing specialists are a type of medical records and health information professional. Let's examine the pros and cons of the career to determine if this might be a good fit for you.

PROS of Insurance Billing Specialist Careers
Above average career growth (22% increase expected from 2012-2022)*
Low educational requirements for career access*
Comfortable office work environments*
About 85% of specialists work full-time*

CONS of Insurance Billing Specialist Careers
Slightly below-average annual salary (median annual salary of $36,000 in 2014)*
Frequent customer support interaction*
Potential for odd hour shifts or part-time work*
Need more education for career advancement*
Certification might be required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Insurance billing specialists work primarily in the offices of doctors or hospitals. Despite being in the medical field, they don't provide any medical care. Rather, they focus on administrative tasks regarding patients' financial responsibilities to the office. They do this by communicating with patients both over the phone and in person. Additionally, they do some other things around the office to make the jobs of doctors and others easier. They need to be computer savvy to handle the amount of electronic information that is used in their workplace. Some of their common responsibilities can include:

  • Insurance claim processing and coding
  • Patient accounting and billing
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Scheduling appointments

Salary Info and Career Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), insurance billing specialists, as part of the larger category of medical records and health information personnel, earned median annual incomes of about $36,000 in 2014 (www.bls.gov). The top 10% made a minimum of $59,000 per year. Statistics show that 37% of insurance specialists worked in hospitals, and 22% worked for physician's offices in 2012. The others work for various healthcare facilities. Though the sample information is small, according to salary information website PayScale.com, insurance coding specialists made $24,000-$42,000 annually, as of July 2015.

The healthcare industry is a booming field. The BLS notes that the demand for insurance billing specialists should grow by 22% from 2012-2022. Technological advances, new healthcare legislation and an aging population will significantly contribute to growth in the overall sector.

Education Requirements

Education Information

Insurance billing specialists typically learn the aspects of medical coding, as these functions are often intertwined. Hence, insurance billing specialists are also regularly called billing and coding specialists. Their training tends to be in medical office administration, with courses in billing and coding, though there are a few possible options to consider. The BLS notes that a postsecondary non-degree award is all that is necessary for career entry.

Students can complete a certificate program in less than a year. There are various names for insurance billing specialist training programs. Alternatively, students can complete an Associate of Medical Administration or similar degree program. These can be completed in two years at most and cover insurance billing in addition to other office admin functions. All programs focus on understanding patient data, computer work and medical terminology.

What Employers Are Looking for

Though positions are generally entry-level, employers tend to look for experienced billing and coding specialists. Positions tend to pay on an hourly basis. Certain specialties are desired, including the flexibility to do typical office administrative work. Below are some examples of job opportunities as of April 2012:

  • A Utah-based diabetes center is looking for a billing insurance specialist. This is an entry-level career that pays $13.00-$15.00 per hour. An associate's degree, at least six months of experience and DME billing is desired.
  • An orthopedics center in Georgia needs a medical insurance billing specialist. This position is full time with benefits. IDX knowledge and CPT knowledge is preferred. At least two years of experience is needed for the position.
  • A medical insurance billing specialist is needed to work in a busy chiropractic office in Virginia. At least two years of experience is needed. This full-time position pays $13.00-$18.00 per hour.
  • In Texas, a medical insurance billing and coding specialist is needed. Position will start part time with possibility for full time. Duties include billing and coding as well as front desk admin work. Must have one year of experience at a minimum.

How to Beat the Competition

Based on a review of available career opportunities, it appears possible to enter the career field without having completed an associate's degree program or obtaining certification in many instances. Therefore, these are two concrete steps that you can take to stand out in the job market.

Associate of Medical Office Administration

Though many job opportunities in this field don't require an associate's degree, obtaining this education can be a viable option that can help distinguish you from the competition. An associate's degree program can give you a more rounded education than a shorter, certificate program and make you more marketable as a result. These programs can be completed in 16-24 months, which is not significantly longer than some certificate programs. However, they balance out your education by allowing you to complete general education math, science, speech and English composition courses that give you a better grasp of material you might need to succeed in this career.

Certification Options

In order to obtain employment in some instances, or to advance in the career field, insurance billing specialists need to obtain certification. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, since there are many professional organizations that certify billing and coding specialists. For instance, the American Academy of Professional Coders offers the Certified Professional Coder designation (www.aapc.com). Alternatively, the National Healthcareer Association offers a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist certification (www.nhanow.com). Additionally, the American Health Information Management Association offers the well-regarded Certified Coding Specialist designation (www.ahima.org). Any of these certification options can put you ahead in your field.

Some of the aforementioned organizations offer multiple other related certifications that can help you stand out in the market. The choice you make might come down to what is recommended by schools or associates. The choice might also simply be a matter of personal preference. In any instance, maintaining active certification over the long haul will require completing continuing education. The variety of certifications available can allow you to continue to build your resume throughout your career as well.

Alternative Careers to Consider

There are a few possible options you might want to consider if you don't see an insurance billing specialist career as an ideal fit. A medical transcriptionist is one such related option. Medical transcriptionists share many commonalities with insurance billing specialists. They have similar levels of education, they pay roughly the same, and they are both in the same industry. However, medical transcriptionists focus on listening to recordings of health professionals to convert them into written reports. Their duties may be more focused than insurance specialists overall. Also, the field is growing by a scant 6% from 2010-2020, so it could be a challenging career to get into.

On the flipside, if you are willing to finish more schooling, you might want to consider becoming a medical or health services manager. They need to complete a bachelor's degree in order to be considered for employment, but the financial rewards can be lucrative. Medical health and service managers earn $84,000 annually on average, and the field is expected to grow by 22% from 2010-2020. They work in essentially the same field as medical insurance specialists, but they plan how healthcare is delivered for a unit or in some cases, an entire facility. For those that seek greater horizons, this is an intriguing option to look into.

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