How to Enroll In the Right Medical Billing and Coding Program near Athens Alabama
Once you have made a decision to become part of the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Athens AL, it's crucial that you choose the appropriate school to ensure that you receive the proper education to guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States, and a growing number of options are available both on campus and online to get the training that you need. But just where does one start? A number of future students begin by searching for schools that are within commuting distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they might surf the internet looking for online courses and pick the cheapest one. But while location and cost are relevant factors when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as reputation and accreditation need to be taken into account also. We will cover a list of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are assessing so that you can learn what you need to know prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the academic and certification options offered.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Programs and Certification
It's imperative that you receive your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. Even though it is not a requirement in many cases to earn a professional certification, the program you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama schools simply require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The most expedient way to becoming either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to earn a certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more comprehensive education, which for most colleges requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. When your training has been concluded, although not required in most states, you may desire to earn a professional certification. Certification is an effective way for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their career. Just some of the organizations that provide certifications are:
- American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
- Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC).
- The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS).
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Graduating from an accredited medical billing and coding program, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing healthcare field.
Medical Coder Job Duties
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Athens AL private practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to examine the medical records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services may be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment used. There are various codes that are used in this conversion process, including the following:
- CPT codes (Current Procedural Terminology).
- ICD codes (International Classification of Diseases).
- HCPCS codes (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding).
Medical coders depend on information from sources such as nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all private payer and government rules that influence coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Athens AL physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in earnings each year, a proficient medical coder is an important asset for any healthcare team. They can work in any type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and urgent care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to work at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Description
As vital as the medical coder's function is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose labors bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Athens AL healthcare organizations and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Frequently the biller and coder can be the same man or woman within a healthcare facility, but they can also be two independent professionals. When the coder has carried out her or his task, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After being paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be charged for deductibles and additional out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
- Check on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been declined
- Work as an intermediate between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Create and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and deal with unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only are employed by family practices, but also Athens AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in any type of healthcare facility that relies on the revenues generated by billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Colleges
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then selecting a medical billing and coding online program may be a great alternative. They can be especially attractive to students living in Athens AL who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have other responsibilities that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an additional benefit, online programs are often less expensive than the traditional classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online schools are reputable. That's why it's important to establish that the online college you select is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will review the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to establish that any online school you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for example the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this type of learning, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Colleges
Once you have a better idea what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what education options are offered, you need to begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there a large number of training options available at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Athens AL area, you need to have a prepared list of questions in order to evaluate each one. And when you include all of the online schools that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become rather daunting. As we have already addressed, location and cost are going to be important factors, especially if you have a modest budget and will be commuting to classes from your Athens home. And whether or not the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's take a look at some of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the right choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's important that the program and college you choose are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you get will be of the highest quality, it may help secure future employment also. Many Athens AL medical facilities will only hire entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding training program. And financial assistance and student loans are in many cases only offered for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before enrolling in a medical coding and billing college, find out what its reputation and ranking are among other schools. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will mostly be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, verifying that the school is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. Another option is to get in touch with a few Athens AL medical organizations that you may have an interest in working for and find out which colleges they suggest. Bear in mind that even if the college itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Placement Program? Obtaining a job in Athens AL after graduating in your new field may be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Find out if the schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is a good indication that the billing and coding school has a significant network of healthcare employers where they can refer their graduates. It also indicates that the school's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School Located? If you are planning on driving to class from your Athens AL residence, then the location of the college will be of prime importance. Obviously if you choose an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to remember is that if you go to classes at a community or junior college, many require a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first research those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical coding and billing certification courses can differ in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the length of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also consist of such items as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the college's financial assistance department to see what is available in Athens AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online college, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending college and need a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Athens AL, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Athens AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Picking the ideal medical coding and billing degree or certificate course is a very important first step to help ensure your success in this rewarding specialty of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the most rapidly expanding careers in the health industry. As a result, there are many trade schools, junior colleges and other institutions that provide education and training in medical billing and coding. As we have discussed, you can elect to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the school you choose offers an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the healthcare industry. But however you decide to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to assess your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the proper education, you can accomplish your career objective to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Athens Alabama.