How to Enroll In the Best Medical Billing and Coding Training Program near Huntsville Alabama
Now that you have decided to become part of the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Huntsville AL, it's essential that you find the appropriate program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the Country, and more and more options are offered both online and on campus to receive the training that you need. But just where do you begin? Many potential students start by searching for colleges that are within travelling distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and select the least expensive one. But while location and cost are significant issues when making your selection, they should not be the sole ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be considered as well. We will review a checklist of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are evaluating so that you can find out what you need to know before making your decision. Before we do that, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the educational and certification options offered.
Medical Coding Job Summary
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Huntsville AL medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to examine the treatment records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services may be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies used. There are multiple codes that are utilized 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 radiology and lab 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 affect coding also. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to services not being paid for, services being paid for at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Huntsville AL doctors and hospitals multiple thousands of dollars in income annually, a proficient medical coder is an important asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and emergency care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Biller Job Functions
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 Huntsville AL medical organizations and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the biller and coder can be the same person within a healthcare facility, but they can also be 2 separate specialists. After the coder has performed his or her duty, the biller utilizes the codes supplied to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After they have been paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be charged for deductibles and additional out of pocket expenses. On a regular basis, a medical billing professional can also do any of the following:
- Confirm medical insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been declined
- Act as an intermediate between the healthcare provider, the insurance companies and the patients for proper claim settlement
- Generate and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and deal with unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for private practices, but also Huntsville AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may practice in every type of medical facility that depends on the revenues generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Programs and Certification
It's essential that you get your training from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. Even though it is not a requirement in most cases to earn a professional certification, the school you choose should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). The majority of Alabama programs just require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to apply. The quickest way to becoming either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to attain a certificate, which typically takes about 1 year to finish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more comprehensive education, which for most programs calls for two years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees in medical coding and billing are not widely offered. When your education has been completed, although not required in most states, you may wish 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 dedicated to their occupation. Some 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 billing and coding course, combined with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new career and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Schools
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes at home, then selecting an online medical billing and coding program may be an excellent alternative. They can be especially attractive to individuals living in Huntsville AL who plan on going to school while continuing to work or have other commitments that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online schools are often less expensive than the conventional classroom options. Expenses for such things as tuition, study materials and commuting may be decreased or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it's essential to establish that any online school you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will review the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to check that any online school you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to commit yourself to this style of learning, then acquiring your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Training Programs
Now that you have a general idea what a medical coder and biller does, as well as what education options are available, you need to begin the process of researching colleges. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Huntsville AL area, you need to have a ready 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 rather daunting. As we have already addressed, cost and location are going to be significant issues, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be commuting to classes from your Huntsville home. And verifying that the program and school are accredited must be part of your vetting process also. So let's review several of the additional questions that you should ask the colleges you are looking at so that you can evaluate each one and make the right choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's vital that the program and school you choose are accredited by a respected accrediting organization, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the education you receive will be of the highest quality, it could help secure future employment as well. A number of Huntsville AL healthcare facilities will only hire entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational program. And financial assistance and student loans are in many cases only offered for programs that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before picking a medical coding and billing program, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other schools. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the field, since potential employers will basically be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have addressed, making sure that the college is accredited is a first step. Checking with college rating organizations, for instance U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school also. An alternative is to contact a few Huntsville AL medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and find out which colleges they suggest. Keep in mind that even if the school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Referral Program? Obtaining employment in Huntsville AL after graduation in your new field can be challenging without the support of a job assistance program. Check 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 coding and billing college has a substantial network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also indicates that the college's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School's Location? If you are intending on driving to class from your Huntsville AL home, then the location of the program will be of significant importance. Naturally if you enroll in an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to remember is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, many charge a higher tuition for enrollees that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding certification courses can vary in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Costs also consist of such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial aid may be available to help reduce a portion of the cost, so make sure to check with the college's financial aid department to find out what is available in Huntsville AL. Naturally if you decide to enroll in an online school, a portion of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while going to college and need a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes in the evenings or on weekends near Huntsville AL, confirm that they are available at those times. If you can only attend on a part time schedule, check that the college you select offers that alternative. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Best Huntsville AL Medical Billing and Coding School
Enrolling in the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to help assure your success in this exciting field of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are two of the most rapidly expanding jobs in the medical industry. As a result, there are numerous vocational schools, junior colleges and companies that offer training and education in medical billing and coding. As we have covered, you can elect to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also imperative that the college you pick has an accredited program with an outstanding reputation within the medical care field. But however you choose to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the right questions, you will be better qualified to assess your options and choose the ideal medical billing and coding school. And with the proper education, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Huntsville Alabama.