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Can a Felon Become a Medical Coder?

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When it comes to finding a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging.  Jobs they once had are lost and careers may be gone.

Felons may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

They will have to be creative and willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession.

This blog post will address the issue of whether a felon can become a medical coder.

  • What is a Medical Coder?
  • What Training Does a Medical Coder Need?
  • How Much Does a Medical Coder Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Medical Coder

What is a Medical Coder?

A medical coder is a person that transforms information regarding diagnosis, procedures, medical services, and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes.

Diagnosis and procedure codes are located in medical documentation records, such as physician’s notes, laboratory, and radiology results.

A medical coder assists in ensuring that all codes are correct in the medical billing process.

Daily duties of a medical coder include being able to locate relevant information in a patient chart, research codes, and enter information into a computer.

A medical coder works in a variety of settings from a physician’s office to a clinic to a hospital.

A medical coder works independently but must interact with physicians, medical staff, and medical billers to correctly assign medical codes for billing.

There are certain skills a medical coder needs, including to:

  • Be detail-oriented to ensure accurate medical records
  • Understand a written diagnosis or explanation to determine proper codes
  • Be a good typist and have good computer proficiency
  • Be able to work independently
  • Have strong communications and interpersonal skills in order to discuss medical information with doctors and medical billers
  • Work with integrity and discretion in maintaining patient confidentiality
  • Have strong technical skills to maintain computer records

What Training Does a Medical Coder Need?

There are certain steps to follow to become a medical coder.  First, they must graduate from high school or get their GED.

Formal training in medical coding is essential.  A medical coder must have at least a six-month certificate for medical coding.

In most states, a two-year associate degree in medical coding or health information technology is preferred.

Certification as a medical coder can be achieved through the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC).

In this coursework, a student can learn about:

  • Reviewing and assigning accurate medical codes
  • Medical coding guidelines
  • Integrating medical coding and payment
  • Knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology for correct coding

How Much Does a Medical Coder Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 120,000 medical coders.  This occupation is expected to show a 21% growth by 2020.

The average salary for a medical coder was $47,000.  Experience and additional certification could have a significant impact on these earnings.  With two years of experience a coder could earn $48,000 and with 15 years of experience the average becomes $56,000.

A medical coder with a certified coder designation had an annual salary of $48,000 and those with a hospital/outpatient coder had an average of $56,000.

It also depends on the area of the country where a medical coder lives.  Those on the West coast have the highest annual salary while those in Southeastern U.S. have the lowest.

An Opportunity for Felons?

Because of working with confidential patient information, background checks are essential in this industry.  Some certification programs require a criminal background check before admitting students to their program.

Depending on the offense, some certification programs will accept those with a felony conviction.

Those felons who have a crime against a child, is a sex offender, or has a drug offense will be unlikely to be able to work in this field.

Felons should check with the AAPC in the state in which they would reside after completing the requirements to become a medical coder for exact guidelines.

In order to be successful in this pursuit, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. Lying about their conviction will prevent them from becoming a medical coder.

They are already working with the often negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

There are many success stories, as the Guide to Being Employed, reveals, showing how having a goal, commitment, dedication, and perseverance can assist felons in achieving their dream.

There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities.

For many felons, having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a medical coder.

For employers, there is a Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring a felon.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Medical Coder

For families of felons wanting to pursue a dream of becoming a medical coder, encourage your loved one and support their efforts to live an honest life, change their lifestyle, and keep their dreams alive.

Your family member is worth making the effort for, if they are sincere in their desire to become a medical coder.

Help them realize their ambition no matter how difficult the road might be.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a medical coder with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.

11 thoughts on “Can a Felon Become a Medical Coder?”

  1. I finished my studies with DeVry University, and recieved my Medical Billing and Decoding Certificate. I am doing an internship with a Private Dr. This practice is small, so there is no room to hire me. But I am going through American Job Center that are helping me look for work. I will update you if somehow I am able to get a job in this field. I am an ex felon, but have not been in trouble since being released from prison in 96, my past is not an issue. But realize that is not how I am seen. I am hopeful still.

    Reply
  2. Hope anyone that has a felony has the opportunity to work. In my border state of the Southwest employment is impossible with a felony record even with mine 35 years ago nonviolent and crime free. A lot of closed doors.

    Reply
  3. I have been working in the Medical billing field in Texas for about a year. I am not certified yet but plan on pursuing it. The TX felony I have on record Hindering Apprehension of a Known Felon 2001, no illegal activity of any kind since then or before. Hope this helps.

    Reply
  4. I have a nonviolent felony on my criminal record dating back to 1994. I went to school for medical billing and coding in 2006, graduating in 2007, and hired by the physicians’ office I externed with in 2007. Thinking everything was all good, I left that job pursuing a job with the local hospital, that felony came up and it had been over ten years at that point so I was out of a job for at least a year. I went to school for management and back to retail for work. I eventually found a data entry job with a healthcare insurance company through a temp service. Talking with a coworker, a medical company was looking for a CPC, which I am and she wasn’t, and she suggested I apply. Thankfully, I was hired, I believe because that company is based in AZ, (I’m in FL) and was with that company for over seven years. Recently I was terminated and now I’m back to square one. The felony is popping up again and I’m trying to take care of it now with expungement. I tried in the past, but was denied. Can’t remember why, but I believe the laws have changed here in FL. Best wishes to everyone.

    Reply
  5. Hi, i wanna do the medical coding process, but i have a case on me, due to fraud.. im i still able to work in this field or would it effect me..?
    I live in Ca..

    Reply
  6. I am sin recovery and I have a four year degree in mass communications. I am widowed and I’m my late 30’s so I’m trying to start over but i have two non-violent felonies. Trying to decide what field to go into and it’s between medical billing and coding and counseling in substance abuse . I would love to work with people in recovery but being the only parent with an income, I need to consider pay. Main question if anybody knows…is the cost of the certification expensive and worth it only to be possibly turned down by so many employers? Is it hard to find entry level positions at my age (39?)

    Reply
  7. I am in recovery and I have a four year degree in mass communications. I am widowed and I’m my late 30’s so I’m trying to start over but i have two non-violent felonies. Trying to decide what field to go into and it’s between medical billing and coding and counseling in substance abuse . I would love to work with people in recovery but being the only parent with an income, I need to consider pay. Main question if anybody knows…is the cost of the certification expensive and worth it only to be possibly turned down by so many employers? Is it hard to find entry level positions at my age (39?)

    Reply
  8. I want to study for billing and coding but i have a drug felony it has been 9 years since i finish with all that but I’m afraid that once i study this and then i wont get a job, I have so much trouble with getting a job because of my background

    Reply

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