Health Insurance Degree Program Overviews
Read about degree programs for the aspiring health insurance specialist. Explore educational prerequisites, program coursework and popular career options here.
The health insurance industry includes a wide range of careers, from sales to insurance adjusters. There are also many jobs in the healthcare field that require training in health insurance, including medical insurance coding, billing and reimbursement. While there are no degree programs in health insurance specifically, there are associate degree programs that train students to navigate the complexities of health insurance and medical billing.
Health Insurance Specialist Associate Degree Programs
A health insurance specialist program focuses on the processes and the administrative and technical skills needed to work in the insurance industry or in a medical office setting. Codes associated with procedures and diagnostic tests and other medical services are used to process health insurance claims, and so medical billing or coding specialists are also needed in the health insurance settings, including the billing and reimbursement departments of medical complexes and hospitals.
A high school diploma or GED is usually required to enter an associate's degree-level insurance specialist program. Students may sometimes be asked to take a vocational exam to determine if the program is right for them.
Program coursework covers many aspects of the health insurance industry, medical office practices and medical information systems. Classes cover both medical and insurance procedures, with a focus on coding and billing practices. Typical areas taught include:
- Medical terminology
- Health insurance billing practices
- Procedure coding
- Information management
- Medical insurance legalities
Popular Career Options
Health insurance specialists can find work in the health claims department of insurance companies, in hospital administration or as independent health insurance salesmen. Possible specific job titles include:
- Collections manager
- Reimbursement specialist
- Insurance claims examiner
- Insurance verification specialist
- Health insurance agent
Continuing Education Information
Some health insurance specialists return to school to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in a field related to healthcare administration. A baccalaureate or advanced degree in this area allows students to advance their careers into management or more technical positions. Career options with an advanced degree include: hospital billing coordinator, medical office manager, claims processing manager, health insurance claims adjuster and healthcare insurance underwriter.
Medical Insurance Billing and Coding Associate Degree Programs
Although it's not required by law, many students earn associate degrees to work as medical insurance billing and coding technicians in hospitals, medical clinics and many other healthcare settings. According to a 2005 survey by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), 73% of employers felt that some type of educational accreditation was the most important factor in hiring medical coders (www.ahima.org). An associate degree program teaches students how to work in a healthcare setting, code specific medical procedures and submit bills to health insurance companies for medical services that have been rendered.
A high school diploma is required to enter a medical billing and coding program, and an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher is often the threshold for admission. In many schools, students are also required to have a basic working knowledge of computers.
Coursework focuses on office procedure, medical coding systems and health insurance knowledge. Classes can include:
- Clinical procedures coding
- Information Systems
- Medical office procedures
- Health insurance billing
- Medical terminology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for medical records and health information technicians are expected to increase 21% from 2010 to 2020 (www.bls.gov). This significant increase is due to recent federal legislation making electronic medical records mandatory and a projected increase in the need for healthcare services as the population ages.
The mean annual wage for medical record technicians working in a hospital was $38,860 according to the 2012 BLS statistics. Those who worked in the offices of doctors made $31,290, while those working in nursing home facilities earned around $35,060 a year.
Continuing Education Information
After graduating from an associate degree program, many medical billing and coding technicians take additional classes and exams to become certified Registered Health Information Technicians (RHIT). Over sixty-seven percent of medical workers with additional credentials earn more than their non-credentialed colleagues, according to the AIHMA's 2005 study on health information professions.
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