Contempo Coding Podcast

The Rising Cost of Being a Medical Coder

January 22, 2024 Victoria Moll Season 2 Episode 8
Contempo Coding Podcast
The Rising Cost of Being a Medical Coder
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode shines a light on the dynamic changes in the industry, including a significant 70% rise in AAPC membership dues over the past decade. We explore how these changes impact coders and CEU providers, offering a clear, insightful perspective on the industry's current state and future direction.

But there's more! There is positive shift towards remote work in healthcare, a game-changer for many professionals. This transition not only boosts financial savings by eliminating commutes but also brings fresh challenges and opportunities in medical coding. We delve into the complexities and benefits of this new era, from maintaining up-to-date knowledge to enjoying a healthier lifestyle and better work-life balance.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to today's podcast, where we are peeling back the layers on the rising costs in medical coding from things like membership dues to, potentially savings in our remote work. We are going to discuss some of the things that are really reshaping our industry. So let's unravel some of these situations and complexities and talk about what it really costs to stay in the forefront of medical coding these days. So I did a little digging through some of my old emails. I was curious as to what some of the costs we had were with AAPC back. More so when I started or, I guess, was really getting the ball rolling and I was able to find an email for my membership renewal in 2010. So the email said that my membership was due to expire in 2010 and my dues for the AAPC were $120. And at the time they had payment arrangements available, which I'm not sure they still offer, but at that time I could pay every four months, I think something like that $40, $40, $40. We had to call to set that up. Now today's membership dues we know are $205. I believe student membership is $100 and something like that a little over 100. And if we compare that to the increase from membership dues to salaries I looked up the salary survey from 2010. So in 2010 our median salary for ACPC was $45,347 versus currently it's listed at the 2023 salary survey at $58,895. So that means the median salary from 2010 went up about 30% and dues went up 70%. Now, granted, dues are only a small percentage of that salary, so in kind of a ratio aspect it's not that significant. But when you frame it in that, where our salaries are going up 30% and dues are going up 70%, it seems like a lot more. I believe every single year since I've been a member it's gone up. So at something I typically expect for it to go up anywhere from $5 to $20 every single year. And considering the fact that since 2010 the federal minimum wage has stayed exactly the same, I think we're doing pretty well in the medical coding realm of things. Now, in that time we've also seen an increase in things like webinars, fellows have gone up in fees and I wouldn't be surprised if we see a considerable hike in 2024 for any sort of CEU offerings and potentially less CEUs even for free available. Not everyone is aware of this because not everyone flies to give CEUs to others as a vendor, but the vendor application fees to offer CEUs to the AAPC have gone up this year For one CEU. So if you had to go out an hour long webinar and you're like, oh, I want to offer CEUs to everyone for this, you used to pay $165. Now there was an annual fee I think just a BIA vendor of like $200 and some odd dollars, but that went from $165 per one CEU to $330 for one CEU and basically every CEU offering has almost doubled. So if you offered something that was eight CEUs, I believe it was $600 and now it's like $1200. So oftentimes when vendors offer free CEUs, it's done for marketing purposes, like, hey, we're going to market to all of these people and let them know about our services and hopefully, out of the you know 2000 people that sign up for this free CEU offering, a couple of them will sign up for our services and will wind up making money. So that's usually why they offer those CEUs for free. Oftentimes, aapc instructors will offer free CEUs because they as part of their licensing fee, which also has gone up this year, as part of their licensing fee they get a certain amount of applications. So to promote themselves, they'll say hey, come and see how my teaching style is and I'll give you free CEUs for this webinar or this session that I'm doing. Another thing that has increased in price, not surprisingly, is the exam fees. So I went back to see kind of what was listed on the AAPC website in 2010, using some internet tools that let you look at old versions of websites, and what I found on the website back in 2010 was the core credentials were $300. They have now gone up to $499. But of course, we've seen some benefits of that, like the 499 is for two attempts. We get to take the exam remotely. It's not as long of an exam, there's less questions, there's less time, so, for sure, some perks there. Now, what hasn't seen a substantial increase, interestingly enough, has been the book fees. When I looked for what a CPT book cost in 2010, I was able to find an email from the AAPC saying that the CPT book was suggested retail price of about $107.95. And you could buy it on sale for $84.95, which is probably around the same with what you could get it for now, especially if you're buying like a bundle package of the books. So those are some of the fees that we've seen increase with the AAPC. Now I'm not as familiar with the AHIMA end of things. But I understand that members of AHIMA are not very pleased right now with some recent attempts at requiring 40% of their CEUs for maintaining their membership to come directly from AHIMA. Apparently, ahima does not offer as many included CEUs with their membership, so that would result in a higher out-of-pocket cost for AHIMA members to get CEUs, because previously what they have been doing is they've been going to ones for vendors and stuff where they're offering those free CEUs and not having to pay out-of-pocket, or they maybe get a membership for a magazine or something that includes CEUs and is very cost effective. And apparently the CEUs directly throughout AHIMA are a little bit more pricey and it does seem like the members are huge fans of them because they're not like oh well, the quality of the education is so phenomenal, I can understand why they're charging more. So when you look at all of that, it definitely feels like inflation is hitting us hard in the medical coding field. But let's talk a little bit about what are some of the things that are maybe not costing us as much, which seems ridiculous because I recently made a video where I made the comment where everything's going up at the price of inflation, except for physician reimbursement, which is so true. I feel like healthcare work continually being asked to do more with less. So what isn't costing us? Well, commutes are one of them. We've historically been an industry where a lot of people work from home and now, ever since the 2019 incidents, that has increased pretty significantly. So we're not going into the office. That saves us on gas, that saves us on clothes, possibly our car insurance. If you're not commuting as much, they tend to give you a discount on insurance. I looked online and I was able to find a really interesting USA Today article that cited a 2022 survey from FlexJobs, which said that 45% of remote workers report a saving of at least $5,000 a year and one in five say that they are saving $10,000 a year just from working from home. And I think that depends probably on where you are located and what exactly you're saving. Like if you're not paying for a car at all, you're certainly going to have a more significant savings, but that's not possible for a lot of locations. Not everywhere has the best transit available. Now, because of a lot of these virtual platforms that we have Microsoft Teams and Zoom and WebEx we have a lot more continuing education at our disposal for free from chapter meetings. We don't have to fly out and spend $3,000 on specialty conferences like we used to. So no more heading out to Chicago. Things are available much more widely and more cheaply online. Now you will find that some of these are still expensive, like if, instead of flying out to a special city and having to go to a specialty conference, you might have like a $3,000 cost. That's gone down to like a $1,000 virtual module that you can purchase instead. But that's still pretty significant, although coding itself, I feel like, has gotten a lot more complex. Well, I shouldn't say that coding has gotten complex. I feel like, over the years, we've gotten a much more fine-tuned understanding of things, because the questions that we were quizzed on for like the CPC exam in 2010 are not like what we have now. I think more people are understanding the guidelines at a higher level and we're being tested now to match that level. We are in the era of the audit and things that used to fly are not flying like they used to. So it's great that we have access to a lot more education and a lot more resources that are already included in that AAPC membership. We get AAPC the magazine. We get quarterly CEUs. They send out news blasts, they keep you updated. They like at least let you know what's coming up. I think where a lot of people get frustrated in this industry is they come in not understanding and not being aware of some of these costs of being a medical coder, like they're sticker-shocked by the cost of the books and then it's like mind-boggling when you're like, oh well, you have to get new books every year or an equivalent and encoder program of some sort. You also have to pay your membership dues every year, otherwise you learn your certifications. Things can add up pretty quick, especially for those people who aren't aware of some of those resources out there where you can locate free CEUs, things like Novotas, things like your magazines and all that. It is definitely clear that the landscape of medical coding is evolving and that there's a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities though there. So we've seen increases in dues and exam fees and CEUs and vendor fees, but I think that's pretty on par with a lot of other industries that are seeing some increases as well. However, there is a lot of balance to that. We are seeing a lot of positive shifts. We're seeing a lot of savings, a lot more work-life flexibility and, honestly, like considering how much it costs just to go to the emergency room when you're having chest pain from anxiety, like to me. If I figure that in as an annual cost, compared to having that work-life balance and being more relaxed and not having to do that and having a healthier lifestyle, like the healthier lifestyle, I think is a significant cost savings and honestly I mean to some degree, is really just priceless. You know, I think one of the key takeaways here really is adaptability. As medical coders, we are no strangers to change. It's at the core of what we do staying informed, leveraging the resources we have available, continually adapting to that evolving landscape. It is just crucial for our success and our growth in this industry. So thank you for tuning in to today's episode. If you found this discussion helpful, don't forget to subscribe for more insights and updates on the ever changing world of medical coding. And until next time, just keep on coding on.

Rising Costs and Industry Changes
The Changing Landscape of Medical Coding