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Home Health Coders’ Salaries Are Evening Out After ICD-10 Fury Calms

Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2016 8:44 PM

Even though home health coders report an increase in salaries each year, the average salary for a coder has reached an all-time high in 2015, as ICD-10 was about to take effect.

Currently, coders reported that the average salary in 2016 was $60,293, which signifies a 3.4% increase from 2015. Those salaries are according to the 272 respondents to Decision Health’s salary survey.

Although these increases home health coders received this year are significant, they don’t compare to the increases that were seen a year ago due to the ICD-10 implementation.

The leveling off of coders’ salaries can be attributed in large part to the industry’s widespread realization that ICD-10 is now “not nearly as scary as it was” just before it was implemented, says Trish Twombly, senior director for DecisionHealth in Gaithersburg, MD.

Also stifling salary growth in the home health coding market is the fact that agencies continue to have to balance tightening reimbursements with increasing costs of doing business, says Judy Adams, president of Adams Home Care Consulting in Durham, N.C.

This is reflected on the fact that 49% of coders did not receive a raise in 2015, survey results show.

Per-chart rate for contract coders has remained unchanged for the last five years, which is another factor as to why coders’ wages are stagnant.

One owner of an outsourced coding company, who asked to remain unnamed, reports paying contractors about $15 per chart for coding and $30 to $32 per chart for coding and OASIS review.

These current rates are about what the going rate was five years ago, according to a former manager of an outsourced coding team.

The home health coding market “almost feels a little bit saturated,” according to the outsourcing owner. “ICD-10 wasn’t as earth-shattering as people said it was going to be,” and while a certain loss of productivity did occur with the implementation, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it was projected to be, she says.

That sentiment coupled with the fact that the denial rate since the arrival of ICD-10 hasn’t been that much higher than ICD-9 has led many agencies that were scrambling to find outsourcers a year ago to now begin to bring their coding back in-house, Twombly says.

Corridor’s Coding Services offers ICD-10 coding, multi-level OASIS reviews, clinician documentation review, as well as trends and reporting. Contact us to learn more.

For the full article, please see the December 19, 2016 Home Health Line Edition.

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