How to Become a Medical Biller and Coder near Athens Alabama
Now that you have decided to enter the healthcare profession by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Athens AL, it’s important that you select the right program to ensure that you receive the necessary education to guarantee your success. As you probably know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the Country, and more and more options are offered both online and on campus to get the training that you need. But just where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for programs that are within commuting distance of their residences and then comparing tuition. Or they may surf the internet looking for online schools and choose the cheapest one. But while location and cost are relevant issues when making your determination, they should not be the sole ones when evaluating medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifiers as accreditation and reputation need to be taken into account as well. We will review a list of questions that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating in order to learn what you need to know prior to making your selection. Before we do that, let’s take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the training and certification options offered.
Medical Coding Job Description
Medical coders work on the front line of the billing systems for Athens AL medical practices and hospitals. Coders have the responsibility to review 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 utilized. There are several codes that are utilized in the conversion, including:
- 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 nursing and physician notes, patient charts, and lab and radiology reports. Coders must know not only what total services were provided for accurate reporting, but must have a working knowledge of all government and private payer rules that impact coding as well. Incorrectly coded claims can lead to services not being covered, services being paid for at a reduced rate, or the provider being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can in fact cost Athens AL hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in revenue each year, a proficient medical coder is an important asset to the healthcare organization. They can operate in every kind of healthcare facility, including private practices, hospitals, clinics and critical care centers. It is not uncommon for experienced medical coders to work at home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Duties
As vital as the medical coder’s function is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose labors generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Athens AL medical organizations and are practically responsible for keeping them in business. In many cases the coder and biller may be the same individual within a healthcare organization, but they can also be two individual professionals. Once the coder has completed her or his task, the biller uses the codes furnished to fill out and submit claim forms to insurance carriers, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the appropriate organization, patients can then be charged for deductibles or additional out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing clerk might also do any of the following:
- Check medical insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal those that have been declined
- Work as an intermediate between the healthcare provider, the insurance carriers and the patients for accurate claim settlement
- Generate and manage Accounts Receivables reports
- Generate and handle unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only work for private practices, but also Athens AL hospitals, urgent care facilities, medical groups or nursing homes. They may work in any type of healthcare facility that relies on the incomes generated by billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Billing and Coding Education and Certification
It’s essential that you receive your training from a reputable school, whether it’s a technical school, vocational school or community college. While it is not a requirement in many cases to attain a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the advantages of accreditation later). The majority of schools only require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible. The fastest way to become either a medical coder or biller (or both) is to earn a certificate, which generally takes about 1 year to complete. An Associate Degree is an alternative for a more expansive education, which for the majority of programs calls for 2 years of studies. Bachelor’s Degrees for medical coding and billing are not abundantly available. After your training has been completed, although not mandated in the majority of states, you may want to acquire a professional certification. Certification is an effective method for those new to the field to show prospective Athens AL employers that they are not only qualified but dedicated 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).
Graduating from an accredited medical coding and billing course, together with earning a professional certification, are the most effective ways to accelerate your new career and succeed in the rapid growing Athens AL medical care industry.
Medical Billing and Coding Online Colleges
If you are searching for flexibility and the convenience of attending classes at home, then enrolling in an online medical billing and coding course might be an excellent alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Athens AL who anticipate attending school while continuing to work or have additional commitments that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online programs are often less expensive than the traditional classroom alternatives. Costs for such things as tuition, commuting and study materials may be decreased or eliminated. But be cautious, as not all online courses are reputable. For that reason it’s essential to establish that any online program you select is accredited to ensure a quality education. We will review the benefits of accreditation in the next section. Just make sure to establish that any online college 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 dedicated enough to commit yourself to this type of learning, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Medical Coding and Billing Colleges
Now that you have a general idea what a medical coder and biller does, in addition to what education options are offered, you need to begin the process of comparing colleges. But since there many training options offered at community colleges as well as vocational, technical and trade schools within the Athens AL area, you need to have a ready list of questions in order to evaluate each one. And when you include all of the online colleges 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 important factors, particularly if you have a limited budget and will be commuting to classes from your Athens home. And confirming that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure as well. 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 evaluate each one and make the appropriate choice.
Is the Training Accredited? It’s essential that the school and program 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 might 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 education you receive will be of superior quality, it may help with your future employment also. A number of Athens AL medical facilities will only hire entry level prospects that have completed an accredited medical billing and coding educational course. And financial assistance and student loans are in many cases only obtainable for programs that have obtained an accreditation.
What is the Program’s Reputation? Before picking a medical coding and billing school, check out what its reputation and ranking are compared to other schools. This is especially imperative if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will mainly be evaluating you based on the quality of your training. As we have addressed, verifying that the college is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, for example U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. An alternative is to check with some Athens AL healthcare organizations that you may be interested in working for and ask which programs they recommend. Remember that even if the school itself does not have an exceptional reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be highly regarded.
Is there an Employment Assistance Program? Finding a job in Athens AL after graduating in your new field can be challenging without the support of a job placement program. Find out if the colleges you are considering have job assistance 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 healthcare employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the college’s graduates are sought after in the marketplace.
Where is the College’s Location? If you are anticipating commuting to class from your Athens AL residence, then the location of the campus will be of prime importance. Of course if you choose an online medical coding and billing program, then the location of the school will not be a consideration. One thing to remember is that if you go to classes at a junior or community college, most charge a higher tuition for pupils that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first research those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Medical billing and coding certification courses can fluctuate 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. Expenditures also consist of such things as the cost of books, supplies and commuting. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the college’s financial aid department to see what is available in Athens AL. Of course if you decide to enroll in an online college, some of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be lessened or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Fit your Schedule? Many students continue working while going to school and need a convenient class schedule. If you can only go to classes during the evenings or on weekends near Athens AL, make sure that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time schedule, make certain that the college you choose provides that alternative. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Medical Billing and Coding School near Athens AL?
If you are considering enrolling in and attending a billing and coding school near Athens AL, following is some relevant information about the area that may aid in your decision making process.
Athens is a city in Limestone County, in the State of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 21,897. The city is the county seat of Limestone County and is included in the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area.
Founded in 1818 by John Coffee, Robert Beaty, John D. Carroll, and John Read, Athens is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the State of Alabama, having been incorporated one year prior to the state's admittance to the Union in 1819. Limestone County was also created by an act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818. The town was first called Athenson, but was incorporated as Athens after the ancient city in Greece. The town's first mayor was Samuel Tanner, and the Tanner area, south of Athens, was named on his behalf.
The Athens area was the home of William Wyatt Bibb, the first Governor of Alabama, and its second Governor, his brother Thomas Bibb, who succeeded him in office when he died in a fall from his horse.
Pick the Ideal Medical Biller and Coder School near Athens AL
Picking the right medical billing and coding degree or certificate course is a critical first step to help ensure your success in this rewarding specialty of medical care. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the most rapidly growing professions in the medical industry. As a result, there are a lot of trade schools, community colleges and other institutions that offer education and training in medical coding and billing. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either on campus or online. It’s also imperative that the college you pick offers an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare field. But however you elect to receive your training, by adhering to the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better prepared to evaluate your options and choose the ideal program. And with the proper training, you can accomplish your career objective to become a medical coding and billing specialist in Athens AL.
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