How to Choose the Right Medical Billing and Coding Course 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 important that you choose the right school to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the USA, and increasingly more options are offered both on campus and online to receive the training that you need. But just where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for programs that are within travelling distance of their homes and then comparing cost. Or they may search the internet looking for online courses and pick the cheapest one. But while cost and location are relevant factors when making your determination, they should not be the sole ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation must be considered as well. We will review a checklist of topics that you should 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 offered.
Medical Coder and Biller Online Education and Certification
It's imperative that you get your education from a reputable school, whether it's a trade school, vocational school or community college. Although it is not required in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the school you enroll in should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most Alaska colleges just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The quickest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to attain a certificate, which normally takes about a year to accomplish. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more extensive education, which for almost all schools requires 2 years of studies. Bachelor's Degrees for medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. After your education has been completed, although not required in most states, you might desire to earn a professional certification. Certification is an excellent way for those new to the profession to show prospective employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated to their career. 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).
Completing an accredited medical billing and coding program, together with earning a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new profession and succeed in the fast growing healthcare industry.
Medical Coding Job Description
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Anchorage AK medical practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to review the treatment records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services can be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment used. There are several 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 such as physician and nursing notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accurate reporting, but must have a functioning knowledge of all government and private payer regulations that impact coding also. Incorrectly coded claims can result in services not being paid for, services being paid at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for improper or fraudulent billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Anchorage AK physicians and medical facilities many thousands of dollars in earnings annually, a good medical coder is a vital asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in any type of healthcare facility, including private practices, clinics, hospitals and emergency care centers. It is not unusual for professional medical coders to operate at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Biller Job Description
As crucial as the medical coder's job is, it would be for naught without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are very important to Anchorage AK medical facilities and are practically responsible for keeping their doors open. Often the coder and biller may be the same man or woman within a medical facility, but they can also be two independent specialists. After the coder has completed her or his job, the biller utilizes the codes supplied to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After they have been paid by the applicable organization, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles or additional out of pocket costs. On a regular basis, a medical biller might also do any of the following:
- Check health insurance coverages for patients and assist them with billing concerns or questions
- Follow up on patient claims submitted and appeal any that have been denied
- Function as an intermediary between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Create and manage Accounts Receivables reports
- Produce and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only are employed by family practices, but also Anchorage AK emergency care facilities, hospitals, nursing homes or medical groups. They may practice in any kind of medical facility that relies on the revenues generated from billing third party payers and patients.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Training
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding school may be an excellent alternative. They can be especially attractive to those living in Anchorage AK who anticipate going to school while still working or have additional commitments that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added benefit, online schools are often cheaper than the traditional classroom options. Costs for such things as tuition, course materials and commuting may be minimized or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it's essential to establish that the online school you select is accredited to ensure a quality education. We will cover the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just be sure to establish that any online college you are considering is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, for instance the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to devote yourself to this type of learning, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Colleges
Once you have a better idea what a medical biller and coder does, along with what education options are available, you must start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous training options offered at community colleges and trade, vocational and technical schools within the Anchorage AK area, you need to have a prepared list of questions to evaluate each one. And when you include all of the online schools that offer medical billing and coding classes, the task can become somewhat formidable. As we have already covered, location and cost are going to be significant issues, particularly if you have a modest budget and will be traveling to classes from your Anchorage home. And verifying that the program and school are accredited must be part of your vetting procedure also. So let's take a look at some of the other questions that you should ask the schools you are looking at so that you can evaluate each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It's vital that the program and college you select are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for instance the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it's an online college, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you receive will be of superior quality, it may help secure future employment as well. Many Anchorage AK medical organizations will only employ entry level candidates that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training course. And financial assistance and student loans are in many cases only available for schools that have earned an accreditation.
What is the Program's Reputation? Before picking a medical coding and billing college, check out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other schools. This is especially important if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will basically be evaluating you based on the quality of your education. As we have discussed, verifying that the college is accredited is a first step. Checking with school rating organizations, such as U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school also. An alternative is to contact some Anchorage AK medical organizations that you might be interested in working for and find out which colleges they suggest. Keep in mind that even when the school itself does not have an excellent reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Obtaining a job in Anchorage AK after graduating in your new profession may be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have job placement 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 significant network of medical care employers where they can place their graduates. It also indicates that the college's graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College's Location? If you are planning on driving to class from your Anchorage AK home, then the location of the college will be of prime importance. Of course if you select an medical billing and coding online program, then the location of the school will not be important. One thing to remember is that if you attend classes at a junior or community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Cost? Medical coding and billing training courses can differ in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the length of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only cost of your education. Expenses also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial assistance department to see what is available in Anchorage AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online college, some of these added 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 during the evenings or on weekends near Anchorage AK, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, confirm that the college you pick offers that option. Also, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to illness, work or family responsibilities.
Select the Right Anchorage AK Medical Billing and Coding Training
Picking the right medical coding and billing degree or certificate program is a critical first step to help assure your success in this rewarding specialty of medical care. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the most rapidly expanding careers in the health industry. Because of this, there are a lot of trade schools, junior colleges and companies that provide education and training 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 college you pick offers an accredited program with an exceptional reputation within the medical care industry. But however you decide to receive your education, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the right questions, you will be better prepared to analyze your options and pick the right medical billing and coding program. And with the proper training, you can realize your career goal to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Anchorage Alaska.