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As medical costs increase for patients, insurance companies, and the government, everyone wants to ensure statements are calculated fairly and correctly, and that nobody is committing fraud. Medical billing specialists are a vital part of that process.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical billing specialists review hospital records to ensure patients are accurately billed for services and procedures. They then prepare these statements and send them to the appropriate parties, which may require working directly with insurance companies to determine what procedures are covered and to what extent. Medical billing specialists must also handle patient follow up questions and resolve discrepancies.
Medical billing specialists must be detail- and number-oriented. Most are able to perform the bulk of their duties using special software, so computer skills are an plus. Because they must coordinate with insurance companies, patients, and various hospital or medical departments, organizational and time management skills are critical. Finally, medical billing specialists who must follow up with sometimes stressed patients regarding their bills should have a knack for customer service.
According to the BLS, medical billing specialists earned a median salary of $30,950 in May, 2008, with the middle 50 percent earning between $26,000 and $37,570. Earning potential was best among those working in physicians' offices, followed by hospitals and the offices of other types of health practitioners.
Training and Education
The BLS reports that while most medical billing specialists must have at least a high school diploma, employers may require some college. Several community colleges and career schools offer medical billing certificates. Relevant coursework includes: biology, anatomy, physiology, and medical coding or billing software.
Most medical billing specialists learn the specifics of their duties on the job under the supervision of a more experienced specialist, though some classroom time may still be necessary (you can also take classes in this specialization through various online schools). Those with associate or bachelor's degrees enjoy greater salary and advancement potential.
According to the BLS, general billing specialist held about 512,120 jobs in 2008. Most specializing in medical billing worked in physicians' offices, followed by hospitals and the offices of other health specialists.
The BLS reports that jobs for general billing specialists are expected to grow by just 4 percent by 2016, slower than the national average for all jobs. More efficient billing processes coupled with better software reduces the need for additional workers.