Health & Medicine

Want to break into the health care field? Jerry Brown has a way

Elisa Allechant, a junior at Sacramento State, studies in a computer lab at school for an online media aesthetics class on Feb. 7, 2013. Online classes are becoming more widely offered at colleges.
Elisa Allechant, a junior at Sacramento State, studies in a computer lab at school for an online media aesthetics class on Feb. 7, 2013. Online classes are becoming more widely offered at colleges. The Sacramento Bee file

The first program under Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed all-online community college would provide workers with an entry point into the growing health care field.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office is developing a four- to eight-month certificate program to train medical and health care coders in a partnership with the Service Employees International Union–United Healthcare West Joint Employer Education Fund.

"The online college will enable them to obtain short-term credentials they need to advance in their career and improve their economic futures," said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, in a call announcing the program this week.

Unionized health care coders, who assign alphanumeric codes to medical procedures and services for billing purposes, earn about $30 per hour to start, according to the union. The proponents of the program anticipate annual openings for 1,600 medical coding positions across the state.

Brown introduced the online community college plan in January at a cost of $240 million over seven years. The college would offer certificates and other short-term programs for working adults. Officials aim to launch the program in the fall of 2019 if lawmakers agree to Brown's plan in the budget to be debated over the next two months.

The Sacramento Bee is working harder to cover the local health care community. Have a story idea? Email Cathie Anderson

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