How to Become a Medical Biller and Coder near Opelika Alabama
Once you have decided to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Opelika AL, it’s crucial that you find the right school to ensure that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you no doubt know, healthcare is among the fastest growing sectors in the Country, and increasingly more options are offered both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where do you start? A number of potential students begin by looking for colleges that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they might search the internet looking for online schools and choose the cheapest one. But while location and cost are significant issues when making your choice, they should not be the only ones when comparing medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into account also. We will review a list of questions that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are researching in order to find out 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 academic and certification options offered.
Medical Coding Job Functions
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Opelika AL private practices and hospitals. They have the responsibility to examine the treatment records of patients and assign universal codes to all services provided. These services may be for medical, diagnosis or dental procedures, or any medical supplies or equipment used. There are multiple codes that are used in the conversion, including:
- 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 radiology and lab reports. Coders must not only know what services were provided in total for accurate reporting, but must have a working knowledge of all private payer and government rules that affect coding also. Inaccurately coded claims may result in services not being paid for, services being paid at a decreased rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can literally cost Opelika AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in earnings each year, a proficient medical coder is a necessary asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in every type of healthcare facility, including family practices, clinics, hospitals and critical care centers. It is not unusual for seasoned medical coders to work at home as an independent contractor or offsite employee.
Medical Billing Job Duties
As essential as the medical coder’s function is, it would be for nothing without the collaboration of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Opelika AL medical organizations and are literally responsible for keeping them in business. Sometimes the coder and biller can be the same person within a medical facility, but they can also be two separate specialists. After the coder has completed his or her job, the biller uses the codes provided to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being paid by the applicable entity, patients can then be invoiced for deductibles and additional out of pocket costs. On a routine basis, a medical billing clerk can also do any of the following:
- Verify medical insurance benefits 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 carriers and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Generate and manage Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and take care of unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billers not only work for private practices, but also Opelika AL emergency care facilities, hospitals, medical groups or nursing homes. They may work in any type of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Billing and Coding Education and Certification
It’s essential that you obtain your training from a reputable school, whether it’s a technical school, vocational school or community college. Even though it is not a requirement in many cases to obtain a professional certification, the program you choose should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of colleges simply require that you earn 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 earn a certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is also an option for a more comprehensive education, which for almost all programs calls for 2 years of studies. Bachelor’s Degrees for medical billing and coding are not widely available. Once your training has been completed, although not mandated in most states, you might wish to attain a professional certification. Certification is an effective way for those new to the field to show prospective Opelika AL employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated 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 billing and coding course, along with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to advance your new profession and succeed in the rapid growing Opelika AL healthcare field.
Medical Biller and Coder Online Colleges
If you are looking for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then choosing an online medical billing and coding course may be a good option. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Opelika AL who plan on attending school while continuing to work or have additional obligations that make attending classes on campus challenging. And as an additional advantage, online programs are often cheaper than the standard classroom alternatives. Costs for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be reduced or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online courses are reputable. That’s why it’s essential to establish that any online college you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a quality education. We will address the benefits of accreditation in the next segment. Just be sure to check that any online instruction you are researching is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are dedicated enough to commit yourself to this type of learning, then attaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Coder and Biller Courses
Now that you have a general idea what a medical biller and coder does, as well as what training options are available, you need to start the process of comparing schools. But since there many training options available at community colleges and technical, trade and vocational schools within the Opelika AL area, you need to have a ready list of questions to assess each one. And when you add all of the online colleges that offer medical billing and coding classes, the project can become rather formidable. As we have already addressed, cost and location are going to be relevant issues, especially if you have a modest budget and will be traveling to classes from your Opelika residence. And whether or not the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting process also. So let’s take a look at some of the other questions that you should ask the colleges you are reviewing so that you can compare each one and make the best choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It’s essential that the school and program you pick are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it’s an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help ensure that the education you get will be of superior quality, it may help secure future employment as well. A number of Opelika AL medical 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 colleges that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program’s Reputation? Prior to enrolling in a medical coding and billing school, find out what its ranking and reputation are compared to other programs. This is especially relevant if you have no experience in the profession, since potential employers will mainly be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have discussed, making sure that the school is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can verify the quality of the school also. An alternative is to get in touch with some Opelika AL healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and ask which programs they suggest. Remember that even when the school itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there a Job Assistance Program? Finding employment in Opelika AL after graduating in your new field may be difficult without the help of a job placement program. Ask if the schools 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 college has a significant network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the school’s graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the School’s Location? If you are intending on commuting to class from your Opelika AL residence, then the location of the program will be of prime importance. Of course if you choose an medical coding and billing online program, then the location of the college will not be a consideration. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go to classes at a junior or community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Overall Cost? Medical coding and billing certification programs can vary in cost depending on the type of credential earned and the length of training furnished. But remember, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also include such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset a portion of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial assistance department to find out what is available in Opelika AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online college, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Offered that Fit your Schedule? Many students keep working while attending school and need a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes during the evenings or on weekends near Opelika AL, make sure that they are available at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that alternative. Also, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family responsibilities.
Considering Medical Billing and Coding School near Opelika AL?
If you are considering enrolling in and attending a billing and coding school near Opelika AL, following is some relevant information about the area that may aid in your decision making process.
Opelika (pronounced /ˌoʊpəˈlaɪkə/ OH-pə-LY-kə) is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east central part of the State of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. According to the 2013 Census Estimate, the population of Opelika was 28,635. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 150,933 which, along with the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area and Macon County, Alabama, comprises the Greater Columbus, Georgia, a region home to 501,649 residents.
The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as "Opelika." This word taken from the Muskogee language means "large swamp".
In 1848, the Montgomery and West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama, to Opelika, and in 1851, completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery and West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia, in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.
Select the Ideal Medical Billing and Coding School near Opelika AL
Enrolling in the ideal medical coding and billing certificate or degree program is a crucial initial step to help guarantee your success in this exciting sector of healthcare. Medical billing and medical coding are two of the most rapidly expanding careers in the health industry. As a result, there are many trade schools, junior colleges and companies that offer training and education in medical coding and billing. As we have reviewed, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It’s also imperative that the college you select has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare community. But however you elect to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and asking the right questions, you will be better able to assess your options and select the right program. And with the proper education, you can realize your career objective to become a medical coding and billing clerk in Opelika AL.
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