HCC Coder Jobs: Salary and Career Facts
Hierarchical condition categories (HCC) coders use the specialized HCC coding in their coding of medical records. Find out about education, certification and salary potential for HCC coders. Schools offering Computer Programming degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What is an HCC Coder?
Hierarchical condition categories (HCC) coding is a specific type of medical classification system used by health information technicians and medical billing and coding specialists. As an HCC coder, your job is to translate patient histories, symptoms, diagnoses and treatments into codes using an established system. Hospitals and health care facilities can then use those codes for billing and record-keeping purposes.
With HCC coding skills, you can work in hospitals, nursing homes, insurance agencies or contract your services to several health care providers. Job titles include coding specialist, manager, trainer, auditor or analyst.
What Educational Programs Are Available?
If you're interested in working as a professional HCC coder, consider completing a certificate or associate's degree program in medical coding or health information technology. These programs are typically offered through community colleges, vocational institutions and technical schools. While formal education is not always required, graduating from an accredited academic program could improve your employment opportunities and qualify you for professional certification.
A medical billing certificate or degree program provides you with a basic understanding of medical terminology, human anatomy, physiology and medical facility regulations. You'll also learn the basics of coding procedures, guidelines and principles, as well as international classification standards. Programs generally provide you with the practical and technical skills through practicum hours or internship experiences.
Will I Need Certification?
Though not required, it's recommended that you obtain certification if you plan to become a professional HCC coder. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many health care organizations prefer to hire coding professionals that demonstrate a thorough understanding of coding standards through certification (www.bls.gov). You can earn specific credentials through organizations, such as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Professional Coders. You can choose among several types and levels of certification to establish your expertise in the field, as well as specialties in such areas as pediatrics, auditing or compliance. Eligibility requirements vary by organization and credential, though college-level education and experience are generally recommended.
What Salary Could I Expect to Make?
Medical billing and coding technicians, including those proficient in HCC coding, earned a median annual salary of over $31,000 in 2009, according to the BLS. More than 170,000 individuals were employed in the field in that year, and the majority worked for general medical and surgical hospitals or private physicians offices. The highest paid coders were employed in the pharmaceutical industry, averaging over $61,000, per BLS data.
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