Entry-level employment as a health insurance specialist often requires completion of a two-year associate degree college program, at a minimum. These programs typically offer courses in anatomy, medical terminology, medical coding and insurance procedures. There also are certification programs that are offered through junior colleges and private programs that can help you prepare for this career.
An individual who would like to become a health insurance specialist might work for a large insurance company, hospital or boutique firm that offers specialized medical billing services. Health insurance specialists are also called medical insurance specialists, medical billing specialists or insurance coders. Obtaining an associate’s degree or certificate will provide an opportunity for entry-level employment. Completion of a bachelor’s degree can lead to advancement in position and salary.
Some educational programs that help prepare a person who would like to become a health insurance specialist require the completion of an internship at a physician’s office or hospital. In many cases, students work under the supervision of the lead health insurance specialist and obtain hands on experience completing insurance claims, itemizing charges and assigning diagnostic and procedural codes. Students also learn how to answer health insurance-related questions and identify errors in claims.
Health insurance specialists have the option of obtaining certification as professional coders. There are private programs that award professional coder credentials to health insurance specialists and other medical support staff members who would like to work in the billing department of a hospital or physician’s office. Certification normally is obtained after the individual passes a multiple-choice exam. To maintain the credential, continuing education units will have to be completed, and the certification must be renewed every two years.
Certification is a voluntary process that can be used to demonstrate to perspective employers that an individual possesses advanced skill and knowledge. The additional training that a certification program provides can often lead to an increase in annual salary. Someone who would like to become a health insurance specialist should check the credibility of the certification program before enrolling. To get an idea of how the program is viewed in the health insurance industry, you can contact prospective employers or speak with recruiters and inquire about their view of the program.
The job outlook for health insurance specialists was favorable as of 2011. Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting or business administration might have the best chances for employment and advancement. Some employers allow education to be substituted for experience.