How to Choose the Best Medical Billing and Coding Program near Anchorage Alaska
Now that you have decided to become part of the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Anchorage AK, it's crucial that you choose the appropriate school so that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the United States, and a growing number of options are available both online and on campus to obtain the training that you need. But just where do you begin? Many aspiring students begin by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they might surf the internet looking for online courses and select the cheapest one. But while cost and location are relevant issues when making your choice, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as reputation and accreditation should be considered as well. We will go over a list of topics that you need to ask the medical billing and coding training programs you are assessing so that you can find out what you must know before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what medical billers and coders do and the training and certification options available.
Medical Coding Job Summary
Medical coders are on the front line of the billing systems for Anchorage AK medical practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to examine the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies used. There are several 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 including physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and radiology and lab reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accuracy, but must have a functioning knowledge of all private payer and government rules that affect coding as well. Improperly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a decreased rate, or the provider being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Anchorage AK physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in revenue every year, a reliable medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare team. They can work in every type of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and urgent care centers. It is not uncommon for seasoned medical coders to operate 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 efforts bring in revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Anchorage AK healthcare facilities and are practically responsible for keeping them in business. Frequently the coder and biller may be the same individual within a healthcare facility, but they can also be 2 independent professionals. Once the coder has performed his or her duty, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicare or Medicaid. After they have been paid by the appropriate organization, patients can then be billed for deductibles and additional out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical biller might also do any of the following:
- Check health insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing questions or concerns
- Check on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been declined
- Act as an intermediary between the healthcare provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Generate and oversee Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by private practices, but also Anchorage AK 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 Billing and Coding Online Instruction and Certification
It's important that you get your education from a reputable school, whether it's a community college, technical or trade school. While it is not required in many cases to earn a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alaska colleges simply require that you earn either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The most expedient way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which normally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more extensive education, which for almost all colleges calls for 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical billing and coding are not abundantly offered. After your education has been completed, although not mandated in the majority of states, you might want to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an excellent way for those new to the field to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their occupation. Just 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 coding and billing course, in conjunction with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the fast growing medical care field.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Classes
If you are searching for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes from home, then selecting a medical billing and coding online course may be an excellent option. They can be especially appealing to students living in Anchorage AK who anticipate going to school while still working or have additional commitments that make attending classes on campus difficult. And as an additional advantage, online programs are often cheaper than the traditional classroom options. Expenses for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online schools are reputable. For that reason it's essential to establish that any online program you choose is accredited to ensure a quality education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to check that any online training you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for example the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this type of learning, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Training Programs
Now that you have a general idea just what a medical coder and biller does, along with what education options are offered, you must start the process of researching colleges. But since there a large number of training options offered at community colleges as well as trade, vocational and technical schools within the Anchorage AK area, you must have a ready list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online programs that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become rather daunting. As we have already discussed, location and cost are going to be significant factors, especially if you have a modest budget and will be driving to classes from your Anchorage home. And whether or not the school and program are accredited should be part of your vetting process as well. So let's review some of the additional questions that you should ask the schools you are looking at so that you can compare each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the Program Accredited? It's essential that the program and college you decide on are accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, for example the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online program, it may also earn 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 receive will be of superior quality, it could help with your future employment as well. A number of Anchorage AK healthcare facilities will only employ entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing educational course. And financial aid and student loans are in many cases only obtainable for colleges that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before choosing a medical coding and billing school, find out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other colleges. This is especially important if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will mostly be relying on the quality of your training. As we have addressed, verifying that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. An alternative is to get in touch with a few Anchorage AK 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 school itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical billing and coding program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Assistance Program? Obtaining employment in Anchorage AK after graduating in your new field may be challenging without the help of a job assistance program. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have job placement programs and what their job placement rates are. A high and rapid placement rate is a good indication that the coding and billing school has a considerable 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 College Located? If you are intending on driving to class from your Anchorage AK residence, then the location of the school will be of significant 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 bear in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, most charge a higher tuition for enrollees that live outside of their districts. So you might prefer to first look at those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Medical coding and billing training programs can fluctuate in cost depending on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenditures also consist of such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial assistance department to see what is available in Anchorage AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion of these additional costs, such as for commuting may be reduced or even eliminated.
Are Classes Available that Match your Schedule? A number of students continue working while attending school and require a convenient class schedule. If you can only attend classes in the evenings or on weekends near Anchorage AK, verify that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you decide on provides that alternative. Also, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Anchorage AK Medical Billing and Coding School
Choosing the right medical coding and billing certificate or degree course is a very important initial step to help guarantee your success in this exciting field of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the most rapidly expanding careers in the health sector. Because of this, there are many trade schools, junior colleges and other institutions that furnish training and education in medical billing and coding. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It's also important that the college you choose offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the medical care field. But however you decide to receive your education, by following the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to analyze your options and pick the right medical billing and coding college. And with the appropriate training, you can accomplish your career objective to become a medical billing and coding specialist in Anchorage Alaska.