Medical billing and coding is a very important part of the health care field. This field is in high demand by both healthcare and insurance institutions, so much so that, schools are popping up every where both online and on site to fill the need. The problem however with a situation like this is the fact that many of the new medical billing and coding institutions you find online are scams.
These schools are the ones that make people join the program in the believe that once they graduate, they will acquire lucrative jobs online and be able to work from their homes. It is very possible to achieve this but the wide majority of people find out a little too late that this is not reality.
There are many schools promising complete courses that will guarantee a medical billing and coding certificate or degree online, with no onsite training. Others promise people that it will only take a few months to get a certificate while yet many others promise students that they will be able to work from home the instant the graduate.
In other to better understand the topic; medical billing and coding scams, lets talk a little about what medical billing and coding is all about.
What is medical billing and coding?
Medical billing and coding are a very important part of the healthcare system. Without these two fields, it will be very difficult to transmit information within the medical system and medical professionals will find it extremely hard to get paid for all the work they do.
Medical coding is involved in transforming bulky medical information into neat numeric or alpha-numeric codes that are easier to interpret and makes billing a lot easier. It is some what like what computers do; they convert all the information we provide whether in written form, video or images into ones and zeros.
This codes help health insurance and other third party agencies that pay bills for patients, attach the right charges for a visit to a medical facility. Medical billing and coding is the universal language of doctors, other medical professionals, insurance companies and government agencies.
How to avoid scams when looking for billing and coding schools
Avoid schools that promise completion of the course work in less than 6 months
Accredited medical billing and coding institutions usually provide two levels of credentials; associate degree and a certificate program. A certificate program usually takes about a year to complete while an associate program takes about two years to complete.
Because medical coding and billing requires a good mastery of human anatomy and medical terminology, ICD-10-CM codes, CPT codes and modifiers, HCPCS codes and modifiers, cross walking, insurance and insurance claims, medicaid and medicare and much more, it makes sense that it should take about a year or more to get a certificate in this field.
It also makes sense that there are many scams out there targeting people who are hoping to become medical coding and billing professionals. It is not very easy to identify legitimate programs from illegitimate ones but the first step will be to avoid any course that last less than 6 months.
It is in human nature to want things that are easy and quick but cautious people know that nothing good comes easy. If you are really interested in learning and understanding the principles behind billing and coding, then you will need about a year or two.
Avoid institutions that are not accredited
Accreditation is a rigorous process where by the curriculum of educational institutions are determined fit and appropriate for the courses they intend to offer to the public by certain non governmental organizations. In the case of billing and coding accreditation is done by American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). It is important to attend an accredited school if you plan on getting certified later on.
You can also qualify for certification after school if the school attended is accredited by the following regional accrediting institutions,
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NASC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NASC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
It is not advisable to attend a school without checking for its accreditation. You need to think long term because if you decide to continue in that field in the future, your credits from an accredited school will transfer where ever you go.
Avoid ads that promise you will work from home immediately you graduate from school
Medical billing and coding professionals handle a lot of sensitive medical information including social security number, address, demographics, medical record and much more. These are all information that are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).
Medical information systems are design to protect these delicate health information and before any employee is trusted to handler such information safely from home, they should have been working with their organization for quit sometime.
In other words the chances that you will be allowed to work from home as a newbie will be very difficult. You will have to work your way up and gain some trust and experience before that will happen.
Further more, ads that say you can run your own medical billing and coding program from home are probably scams because hospitals, clinic and other medical facilities only contract organizations not individuals to perform billing and coding for them. In fact, many medical institutions hire their own coders and billing agents.
In conclusion, medical billing and coding is a very fast growing field and because of this there are many scams aimed at people looking to join this field. It is better to err on the side of caution than become a victim of scammers.
To be cautious, you need to avoid quick schemes that promise course completion in less than 6 months, promise you will work from home fresh out of school or can open your individual billing and coding program. Finally, avoid any school that is not accredited because it will be a waste of time and money.
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