How to Select the Best Medical Biller and Coder Program near Athens Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Athens AL, it's crucial that you find the appropriate program so that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the Country, 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 potential students start by searching for programs that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they may search the internet looking for online schools and go with the least expensive one. But while cost and location are important issues when making your determination, they should not be the sole ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as reputation and accreditation must be considered also. We will review a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are evaluating so that you can find out what you must know before making your decision. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the educational and certification options available.
Medical Coding Job Summary
Medical coders are on the forefront of the billing systems for Athens AL medical practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to examine the medical records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services may be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment utilized. There are multiple 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 rely on information from sources including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accuracy, but must have a working knowledge of all private payer and government rules that influence coding as well. Inaccurately coded claims can result in services not being covered, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Athens AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in income annually, a proficient medical coder is a vital asset to the healthcare organization. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including family practices, hospitals, clinics and critical care centers. It is not unusual for experienced medical coders to operate at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Duties
As crucial as the medical coder's role is, it would be for naught without the collaboration of the medical biller whose labors produce revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Athens AL medical facilities and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. In many cases the biller and coder can be the same person within a medical organization, but they can also be 2 individual professionals. When the coder has completed her or his duty, the biller utilizes the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After they have been adjusted by the applicable organization, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Verify health insurance benefits for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been denied
- Function as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for proper claim resolution
- Produce and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Athens AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may work in every kind of medical facility that relies on the incomes generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Education and Certification
It's imperative that you get your instruction from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. Even though it is not required in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the program you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs simply require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The most expedient way to becoming either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to earn a certificate, which typically takes about a year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more comprehensive education, which for the majority of colleges requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical billing and coding are not widely available. Once your education has been completed, although not mandated in the majority of states, you may want to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an excellent way for those new to the profession to show potential employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their career. A few of the organizations that offer 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 coding and billing program, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the most effective ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the rapid growing medical care field.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Schools
If you are searching for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding course may be an excellent option. They can be especially appealing to those living in Athens AL who anticipate going to school while continuing to work or have additional responsibilities that make going to classes on campus challenging. And as an added advantage, online schools are in many cases cheaper than the standard classroom alternatives. Expenses for such items 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 essential to verify that the online school you enroll in is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will cover the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to verify that any online instruction you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this mode of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Programs
Now that you have a better idea just what a medical biller and coder does, along with what training options are available, you need to begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges and vocational, technical and trade schools within the Athens AL area, you must have a prepared list of questions to assess each one. And when you include all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the project can become somewhat formidable. As we have already discussed, expense and location are going to be important factors, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be driving to classes from your Athens home. And whether or not the program and school are accredited must be part of your vetting process as well. So let's take a look at several of the additional questions that you should ask the programs you are looking at so that you can analyze each one and make the right choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's essential that the program and school you choose are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the training you receive will be of the highest quality, it may help secure future employment also. Many Athens AL medical organizations will only employ entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training program. And financial aid and student loans are often only available for colleges that have received an accreditation.
What is the School's Reputation? Before choosing a medical coding and billing college, check out what its ranking and reputation are among other schools. This is especially important if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will mainly be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have addressed, verifying that the program is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school also. Another option is to call a few Athens AL healthcare organizations that you might be interested in working for and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Finding employment in Athens AL after graduating in your new profession might be challenging without the support of a job assistance program. Check if the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is an excellent indication that the coding and billing school has a sizable network of healthcare employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the college's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are intending on driving to class from your Athens AL home, then the location of the college will be of significant importance. Obviously if you enroll in an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the college will not be a consideration. One thing to bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, most 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 Complete Cost? Medical billing and coding training courses can differ in cost depending on the type of credential acquired and the length of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also consist of such items as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset a portion of the expense, so make sure to check with the college's financial aid department to find out what is available in Athens AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, some of these added costs, such as for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? A number of students continue working while attending school and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes during the evenings or on weekends near Athens AL, verify that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time basis, verify that the program you decide on provides that option. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Right Athens AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Picking the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate course is a very important first step to help assure your success in this rewarding specialty of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the fastest expanding careers in the health sector. Because of this, there are numerous vocational schools, junior colleges and companies that provide training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have covered, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the college you pick offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare industry. But however you elect to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to evaluate your options and select the ideal medical billing and coding program. And with the proper training, you can achieve your career objective to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Athens Alabama.