Texas Medical Billing and Coding Careers

Medical billing and coding is a growing industry. Often referred to as health information technicians or medical records technicians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for this industry is growing at 22 percent. Texas has the second highest employment level of medical record technicians, after California. Houston and Dallas are Texas cities with the top employment levels in the state. Coders and billers can expect an annual salary of around $37,560 in Texas, but this does vary by locations. Urban areas tend to have higher wages, but medical coders and billers are required in rural areas and should be able to find employment.

In Texas, currently there are no mandated certification requirements by the state. However, a 2005 survey by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reported that 73 percent of employers required credentialing for professionals. AHIMA and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) are the two main organizations where individuals can receive accreditation. The road to certification typically begins with post-secondary education.

Becoming a Medical Coder and Biller in Texas

Medical coding and medical billing are two separate fields, but they do go hand in hand. A medical coder takes information from the doctor’s notes and transforms it into data codes. To provide medical coding, a person must understand the ICD codes, which are classifications for disease. CPT codes document which procedure was performed by the provider. The HCPSC codes are for procedures and equipment that doesn’t fall under the CPT codes. Each code must be documented to provide information when billing.

Medical billing is the financial aspect of the healthcare provider’s business. Once the doctor’s notes are coded, this information must be submitted to the insurance company or other payee in order for the doctor to be reimbursed. This information must be processed correctly, or the claim may be denied. Medical billers need to understand how insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid work, and they need to understand healthcare privacy laws, because data is actually transmitted between businesses. Because of strict protections of a patient’s information, it is highly regulated. A doctor’s office could be in serious trouble if proper procedures are not followed.

Individuals who wish to become a medical coder and biller should be analytical in nature. It takes critical thinking to follow a patient’s diagnosis and treatment to be able to code them into the system for billing. Following that, health information technicians should also have the technical skills to use the software required for documentation. It’s also important to be detail oriented and accurate, as well as have the integrity to work with patient information and sensitive data.

In Texas, currently there are no mandated certification requirements by the state. However, a 2005 survey by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) reported that 73 percent of employers required credentialing for professionals. AHIMA and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) are two of the organizations where individuals can receive accreditation. The road to certification typically begins with post-secondary education.

What Schoolwork Do I need for a Texas Medical Coding Career?

Medical coding and billing programs vary greatly in nature. Some schools offer short programs (six months to a year), where students may earn a certificate, while others offer a two-year program in which students earn an associate’s degree. Four-year bachelor’s degrees as a medical records technician are also available. Most programs help students find an externship, where students gain experience in the field before completing their education.

Coursework for medical billing and coding can include courses in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and ethics and guidelines for health information technicians. Students who undertake an associate or bachelor’s degree should expect to receive a well-rounded education which includes classes in English, history, mathematics, and philosophy as part of their studies. Although these things may not seem necessary for medical records technicians, these classes often form the basis for increasing critical thinking and communication skills.

Medical Billing and Coding Schools in Texas

Most of the major cities in Texas have colleges which offer education in medical billing and coding. A bachelor’s degree is a better bet for gaining employment. If an individual already has a bachelor’s degree, the certificate can provide the training required to perform medical billing and coding tasks without requiring another degree.  When choosing a program, make sure it leads toward certification in one of the major professional organizations, such as AHIMA or AAPC.

  • Associate Degree or Certificate
  • Northwest Vista College – San Antonio
  • Tyler Junior College – Tyler
  • Paris Junior College – Paris
  • Lee College-Baytown
  • Blinn College – Brenham
  • St. Philip’s College- San Antonio
  • Odessa College – Odessa
  • Panola College – Carthage
  • San Jacinto Community College – Pasadena
  • Tarrant County College District – Fort Worth
  • McLennan Community College – Waco
  • Coastal Bend College – Beeville
  • College of the Mainland – Texas City
  • International Business College-El Paso – El Paso (multiple locations)
  • Mountain View College – Dallas
  • Vernon College – Vernon
  • Midland College – Midland
  • Austin Community College District – Austin
  • Houston Community College – Houston
  • Texas State Technical College – West Texas
  • Sanford Brown College-Dallas- Dallas
  • Texas School of Business-North Campus – Houston
  • Texas School of Business-Friendswood – Friendswood
  • Collin County Community College District – McKinney
  • Hallmark College – San Antonio
  • Remington College –Fort Worth Campus, Houston Campus, North Houston Campus, Houston Southeast Campus, Dallas Campus
  • Vista College – El Paso
  • South Texas College – McAllen
  • The College of Health Professionals – Austin, Houston, San Antonio (some locations only offer a certificate)
  • Virginia College-Austin – Austin
  • Sanford-Brown College-Houston – Houston
  • Southwest University at El Paso – El Paso
  • National American University – Austin, Austin South, Lewisville, Mesquite, Georgetown, Richardson
  • Concorde Career College-Grand Prairie – Grand Prairie
  • Kaplan College – Arlington, Beaumont, Laredo
  • Certificate Only
  • Southern Careers Institute- Austin, Pharr, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Harlingen, Brownsville 
  • Milan Institute – Amarillo
  • Valley Grande Institute for Academic Studies – Weslaco 
  • PCCenter – De Soto 
  • Fortis Institute-Grand Prairie – Grand Prairie 
  • M T Training Center – Grand Prairie
  • Professional Careers Institute – Houston
  • Bachelor Degree
  • DeVry Univeristy – Fort Worth
  • Midland College – Midland
  • Hallmark College – San Antonio (also offers masters)
  • Southwest University at El Paso – El Paso
  • National American University – Austin, Austin South, Lewisville, Mesquite, Georgetown, Richardson

Online Schools for Billing and Coding Specialists

Even if a student does not live near a college to receive education toward a degree, online technology has made getting an education easier than ever. With more colleges recognizing the need for flexibility in coursework, students can find online options no matter where they live.

Herzing University, based in Wisconsin, has a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management, four different associate’s degree and a diploma (certificate) as a billing and coding specialist. Herzing ranks in the top 100, in a tie at #90 for the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in the U.S. News Best College Rankings. Keiser University, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida offers an Associate of Science in Medical Administrative Billing & Coding which takes approximately two years to complete.

Applying to a Texas Medical Billing Program

Whether a student plans to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree, the application process generally requires a high school diploma or the equivalent. In Texas, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and colleges work together to provide a central location for individuals to apply to many Texas institutions. ApplyTexas lets students create an account to get more detailed information about each school and submit applications easily. Through ApplyTexas, students can get information about scholarships, financial aid, and deadlines in one location.

Earning Texas Medical Billing Certification

There are two organizations which offer certification for medical coders and billers in the United States. The AHIMA is primarily directed at coders who work in a hospital setting. The AAPC covers other healthcare-related fields. Each organization provides a number of educational resources and programs designed to increase knowledge and awareness of the industry. There are also many different certifications which can be earned from each organization. Although Texas does not require certification to be employed as a medical records technician, it does position an individual for success and open the door to more opportunities.

AHIMA Exams in Texas

Among hospital and physician coders, the AHIMA is a highly respected organization. The Certified Coding Assistant is considered the entry level exam with the AHIMA. Applicants are required to have a high school diploma or GED to sit for the exam. Training is highly recommended. At least six months in coding experience and completion of a training program which includes anatomy, CPT coding, ICD-10 diagnosis coding, and medical terminology is preferred. The AHIMA also offers specialty certifications in healthcare privacy and advanced level certifications for those with more experience to demonstrate their competency in the industry.

Once approval is given to take the exam, the applicant will need to schedule a time to take the test at a Pearson VUE Center. In Texas, these centers can be found in major metropolitan areas and at many colleges. The test is completed on the computer in a controlled environment. Certain coding manuals may be allowed. Non-members of AHIMA may take the exam, but members do get a significant discount.

The AHIMA offers practice exams through their website, which help to prepare test-takers. The exam takes around two hours, and it consists of 90 scored items and 10 pretest multiple-choice questions. The competencies are sorted into six domains:

  • Clinical Classification Systems
  • Reimbursement Methodologies
  • Health Records and Data Content
  • Compliance
  • Information Technologies
  • Confidentiality and Privacy

AAPC Tests in Texas

With the AAPC, the entry-level certification is a Certified Professional Coder (CPC). An associate’s degree or higher is recommended before taking this exam. Applicants without experience may sit for the exam, but upon passing receive an Apprentice status. To remove the Apprentice designation, a CPC-A must have two or more years of experience as a professional coder. Alternatively, one year of experience and 80 hours of education may be applied to remove the Apprentice designation.

The CPC exam covers many different areas. The AAPC offers training manuals and practice tests. Students are expected to understand medical terminology and anatomy, the 10,000 through 60,000 Series CPT, ICD -10 codes, guidelines and compliance in billing, and HSPCS Level II, as well as laboratory, anesthesia, and radiology. The AAPC also offers a section of tips for taking the exam.

Members of AAPC do get a discount on examination fees, but membership is not required to become certified through the organization. For the AAPC exam, applicants must go to a designated exam site. Upcoming exams are in Houston, Denison, Seguin, Fort Worth, Plano, San Angelo, and Austin, but there are different locations throughout the year. The AAPC exam consists of 150 questions, and students are given five hours to complete the test. Within the AAPC, there are also examinations which allow an individual to demonstrate more knowledge in the industry.

Maintaining Your Texas Medical Billing Certification

Although Texas does not have requirements for certification, each professional organization does require certified individuals to continue their education and training to keep their certification in good standing. The AAPC requires 36 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) every two years for recertification. The AAPC offers CEUs through local chapters, webinars, and conferences at regional and national levels. Most major cities in Texas do have a local chapter.

AHIMA also requires CEUs to maintain certification. It offers online CEUs, as well as at centers around the state. Licensees can receive CEUs for attending the Annual Texas Vital Statistics Regional Conference through the Texas Department of State Health Services. Contexo Media holds annual workshops for coders and billers, as does the Health Care Compliance Association. AHIMA holds a national annual convention. In 2016, the convention will be in Baltimore, Maryland, but the city does change each year.

Getting a Medical Coding Job in Texas

Because the demand for health services is increasing, the need for medical coders and billers is only going to increase. Careeronestop lists the fastest growing industries. The top five are all related to health. Every organization which provides services that require medical billing and coding will require individuals to manage this information.

Hospitals and physician offices are the primary employers of medical coders and billers, but nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and pharmaceutical offices all require outpatient coders and billers to work with insurance companies and patients to ensure payment. Generally, inpatient facilities hire only experienced coders and billers, because the processes and diagnoses are more complex.

In Texas, Baylor Scott & White hires medical coders with AAPC certification. PROGEN Labs in Dallas simply wants laboratory experience, without stating which certification they prefer. Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth requests certification through AHIMA. Baylor College of Medicine in Houston requests the CPC from the AAPC.

The industry is moving toward requiring certification to obtain employment as a medical coder and biller. Unfortunately, that means that there are many scams preying on individuals who want to get a new career. Choosing a reputable education program is vital to your success. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Expect training to last at least six months, if not longer. Working from home as a medical coder and biller is possible, but only after someone has proven their commitment and experience in the industry. Doctors or hospitals are not going to hand over sensitive patient data to someone without any experience and professional references. If the program does not take at least half a year or says that “you can start your business in your home,” walk away.

The healthcare industry is booming. It’s a good time to enter the field of medical coding and billing to find employment practically anywhere in Texas, or even in the United States. Take steps to get education and certification toward a rewarding career.