How to Pick the Best Medical Billing Program near Auburn Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Auburn AL, it's important that you select the right program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing sectors in the United States, and more and more options are offered both on campus and online to obtain the training that you need. But just where do you start? Many aspiring students begin by searching for colleges that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and select the cheapest one. But while cost and location are significant issues when making your determination, they should not be the sole ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation must be taken into account also. We will review a checklist of questions that you need to ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating so that you can learn what you need to know prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the educational and certification options available.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Education and Certification
It's imperative that you obtain your education from a reputable school, whether it's a technical school, vocational school or community college. While it is not required in most cases to obtain a professional certification, the program you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alabama programs just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The fastest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to earn a certificate, which usually takes about one year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all schools requires two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not widely offered. After your training has been concluded, although not mandated in the majority of states, you might wish to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an effective method for those new to the field 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).
Completing an accredited medical coding and billing course, combined with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to advance your new career and succeed in the fast growing medical care industry.
Medical Coding Job Description
Medical coders are on the front line of the billing systems for Auburn AL private practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review 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 equipment or medical supplies 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 use information from sources including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Medical 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 also. Improperly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Auburn AL physicians and medical facilities multiple thousands of dollars in revenue every year, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset to the healthcare team. They can work in every type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for experienced medical coders to operate at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Description
As vital as the medical coder's function is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Auburn AL medical facilities and are literally responsible for keeping their doors open. Frequently the biller and coder may be the same person within a medical facility, but they can also be 2 independent professionals. After the coder has performed her or his task, the biller utilizes the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After being paid by the applicable entity, patients can then be billed for deductibles and additional out of pocket costs. On a regular basis, a medical billing professional may also do any of the following:
- Confirm health insurance benefits for patients and help them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been denied
- Function as an intermediary between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies and the patients for proper claim settlement
- Create and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for family practices, but also Auburn AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They can work in every kind of medical facility that relies on the incomes generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Training
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding program might be an excellent alternative. They can be especially attractive to individuals living in Auburn AL who anticipate attending school while still working or have other responsibilities that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an additional benefit, online schools are often cheaper than the traditional classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online colleges are reputable. That's why it's important to confirm that the online school you choose is accredited to ensure a superior education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to check that any online instruction you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting organizations, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this mode of learning, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points 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 available, you need to begin the process of evaluating colleges. But since there are numerous training options available at community colleges as well as trade, vocational and technical schools within the Auburn AL area, you must have a prepared list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online programs that offer medical billing and coding classes, the task can become rather daunting. As we have already covered, cost and location are going to be relevant factors, especially if you have a modest budget and will be commuting to classes from your Auburn home. And confirming that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure as well. So let's review some of the other questions that you should ask the programs you are reviewing so that you can analyze each one and make the best choice.
Is the School Accredited? It's important that the program and college you choose are accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help confirm that the training you get will be of the highest quality, it could help secure future employment as well. Many Auburn AL healthcare facilities will only employ entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational course. And financial assistance and student loans are often only available for schools that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before choosing a medical billing and coding college, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other schools. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will basically be relying on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, verifying that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can validate the quality of the school as well. An alternative is to get in touch with some Auburn AL healthcare organizations that you may be interested in working for and ask which schools they recommend. Remember 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? Obtaining employment in Auburn AL after graduation in your new profession might be difficult without the support of a job assistance program. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is an excellent indication that the billing and coding school has a considerable network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the school's graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the School Located? If you are planning on commuting to class from your Auburn AL home, then the location of the campus will be of significant importance. Obviously if you select 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 go to classes at a junior or community college, most charge a higher tuition for enrollees that reside outside of their districts. So you may prefer to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Expense? Medical coding and billing certification programs can differ in cost based on the type of credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also consist of such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the college's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Auburn AL. Naturally if you decide to enroll in an online college, a portion of these added costs, particularly for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Match your Schedule? A number of students keep working while attending college and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only attend classes at night or on weekends near Auburn AL, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only attend on a part time basis, verify that the college you select provides that alternative. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Auburn AL Medical Billing and Coding Program
Picking the ideal medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a crucial initial step to help ensure your success in this rewarding sector of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are 2 of the most rapidly growing professions in the health industry. Because of this, there are a lot of trade schools, community colleges and companies that furnish training and instruction in medical billing and coding. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either online or on campus. It's also essential that the school you select has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare field. But however you decide to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better prepared to analyze your options and choose the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the appropriate education, you can accomplish your career objective to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Auburn Alabama.