When it comes to hiring medical coders in Los Angeles, speed is a huge factor, according to staffing expert Lindsay Jarett. “Almost every day we see employers who don’t make decisions fast enough,” she says. “By the time many of them finally make an offer, their top choice has already accepted another job.”
Why the high demand for candidates? Jarett, practice manager at Accountemps Healthcare Practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, points out that there are a lot of people who need medical services. More than 200,000 licensed and active-care medical doctors treat over 10 million residents in the city and eponymous county — the second-largest population center in the U.S.
With major employers like Cedars-Sinai Hospital, UCLA Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente — plus myriad doctor’s offices eager to staff open positions — hiring managers in LA have a lot of competition. “Good talent is only available for a short time, sometimes just a few days,” says Jarett.
For employers, this creates the need to speed up their hiring process, especially as competition gets even more intense. The number of health IT jobs, including medical coder roles, is expected to increase by 19.6 percent across California between 2014 and 2024 according to the California Employment Development Department.
Medical coder salaries
Salaries in Los Angeles rise 31 percent above the national average, mostly to compensate for the city’s high cost of living.
The midpoint salary for a certified coding specialist or certified professional coder sits at $69,430. Candidates with multiple certifications or specializations, such as ambulatory surgery, cardiology or oncology, could earn up to $101,852.
Certified medical coding managers, who oversee professional coders, have a midpoint salary of $86,460 and can earn as much as $127,070.
What to look for
As with the rest of the country, demand for medical administrative professionals in Los Angeles is driven by constantly evolving regulations and an aging population in need of medical care. Top medical coder candidates tend to have the following:
- A high school diploma or an associate degree, although a bachelor’s degree is preferable for supervisory roles
- At least three years of coding experience
- Extensive knowledge of various coding systems, including E&M, HCC, ICD-10, CPT and HCPCS
- Experience with electronic medical records programs
- Understanding of HIPAA regulations and compliance
- Ability to keep up with changing coding and billing guidelines
- Strong analytical skills
- Attention to detail
Added expertise and training
Of course, employers should expect to pay more for candidates with relevant certifications. Professionals with a certified coding specialist (CCS) or certified professional coder (CPC) certification from AAPC, formerly the American Academy of Professional Coders, are good to look out for.
AAPC also offers other specialized certifications, including certified outpatient coder (COC), certified risk adjustment coder (CRC) and certified inpatient coder (CIC).
Adapting to new tech
Among the challenges employers in the healthcare industry face, the rise of new technology is at the forefront. As medical offices upgrade to new, more efficient programs, it pays to hire a candidate with experience in the latest versions of electronic medical records and coding systems.