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How you can get a job for $80,000 without  a college degree sounds like a misleading title to a story.

Today Forbes magazine reported that you can do it.  One industry above all industries has proven recession proof.

One industry, health care, continued to add jobs even during the 2008-2009 downturn and is doing so again during the beginning of a possible double dip. Altogether the sector added four million jobs over an otherwise jobless decade.

Does The Economy Have You Stressed?

Here are two related words: medical coding.

First, a little background. Every time a patient goes to see a doctor at her office or in the hospital that doctor gets paid. She gets paid not for counseling you or performing surgery on you. She gets paid for successfully submitting a bill to the insurer, whether it’s Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield or even your flinty little HMO.

Creating that bill is a non-trivial matter. Taking what a doctor writes in your chart and translating it into a claim that won’t get rejected is a bonafide skill that very few people have compared to the need. It requires knowledge of anatomy and medical terminology, reading comprehension, and familiarity with thousands of different coding options. And here’s the twist that makes coding such a great field to go into: it’s about to get a lot more complicated.

Right now hospital coders use a standard called the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems to classify patients and get reimbursed properly for their care. The version in use at American hospitals is called ICD-9, a set of codes that’s been around for almost 30 years. It has approximately 17,000 different entries.

Starting in 2013 hospitals are upgrading to ICD-10, a standard already used in Europe. Mention ICD-10 to hospital executives and you may trigger all sorts of fight and flight responses, shudders, shivers, and even full-blown Freudian denial and repression. Why? ICD-10 is an incredibly complicated taxonomy of over 155,00 different codes. (Although there’s also some sentiment, like this one shared by 3M that the transition may be less complex than billed.)

Hospitals’ pain in complying with this new system will be coders’ gain. Coders who know ICD-10, that is. There are 172,5000 people in the field, all of whom need to be retrained, according to health care consultant Veronica Hoy. She writes: “One reason the coding shortage is likely to persist is that the industry will need more coders to minimize productivity decline while staff training on ICD-10 gets underway. Even when this training is complete, organizations will continue to experience a decline in productivity due to implementation and go-live efforts (plus the inherent learning curve in using the new code sets).”

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