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With ICD-10 Coming, What is a Coder's Earning Potential?

The following article is written by Rhonda Buckholtz, CPC, CPMA, CPC-I, of AAPC.


AAPC recently released its yearly salary survey and the results of over 12,000 respondents indicated that even during this time of recession, the salaries of coders was climbing. That there is a growing demand for skilled coders in a tough economic and health reimbursement environment is evidence to the value coding professionals bring to employers.


Coders have a variety of career paths to choose from, and ICD-10 will lend an even more valuable coding skill. Right now, coders are taking career paths such as auditing, billing, education, management, consultant and many more as well.


The survey showed that 44 percent of respondents fell within the $35,000-$50,000 salary range, with most indicating they earned their salary by saving their practice or facility over $50,000 a year.


According to the survey respondents, many are better educated than the general U.S. population. More than 88 percent of our respondents have had at least some college education, and more than half have either taken technical training or have earned a college degree, whereas only 55 percent of Americans have had some college education, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Among all respondents, those with a bachelor’s degree out-earned those with only a high school diploma by a dramatic $10,000 per year ($51,825 vs. $41,802).


More than half of the respondents (51.6 percent) said they have 10 years or more experience in their specialties, and more than 20 percent have 20 years or more experience. Roughly one-third of respondents (31 percent), however, have five years or fewer in their field. More than half of those with 20 years or more experience earned in excess of $50,000 per year. Slightly more than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents with 10 years experience earned $50,000 or more per year. Among those with five years experience, only 14 percent fell into this high-earning group.


Future of coding

So what does the future hold for coders? The saying, “my future’s so bright I have to wear shades” comes to mind. With so many governmental changes coming, the coding future looks extremely bright.


With that in mind, ICD-10 is a learning curve that will create many changes and a need for skilled coders. Honing up on your skills will take your professional career up a notch. ICD-10 will give most of us an opportunity to expand or change our current roles. With the need for more detailed information in the patient’s medical record, there will be an increase in the queries we send to our providers. This will significantly increase the interaction between coders and the medical staff.


Learning anatomy and pathophysiology is going to become extremely important in ICD-10. Brushing up on that skill set will put you ahead of the curve and ready to learn the codes and comprehend the full meaning of the codes and the increased specificity of them.


Do you know what goes into assigning a code within the asthma categories? What makes up mild intermittent asthma? Will you be able to pull the correct information out of a medical record? What is status asthmaticus? Or type IIIA fracture? Where is the caput coli?


Can you name what these fractures look like?

  • Displaced fractures
  • Non-displaced fractures
  • Closed fracture
  • Open fracture
  • Greenstick fracture
  • Transverse fracture
  • Spiral fracture
  • Oblique fracture
  • Compression fracture


If you're not sure, how will you be able to assign the proper codes in ICD-10-CM?


Taking the time now to really hone in on these skills will enhance your abilities to work hand in hand with your clinical providers and secure your future.


It won’t take you years to learn the new codes. Don’t focus learning them until at least 6-9 months prior to implementation. Instead, take the time now to focus on the other areas needed to elevate your skill level.


There is much talk in the marketplace right now about the need for skilled coders with the upcoming transition to ICD-10. Now is the time to make yourselves valuable and show off your hard-earned skills. Embrace this time of change and become the expert in your specialty.


Learn more about AAPC.

More Articles Featuring AAPC:

What Will Your ASC Pay Its Coders in 2012?

Survey: Coder Salaries Climbing, Especially For the Most-Educated

CMS: Physicians Cannot Bill Part B Contractors for Drugs Dispensed Directly to Patients

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