Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools
Obtaining formal education regarding medical billing and coding procedures is one of the more popular certifications pursued by students who want to work in the medical field but do not want to spend several years in school. A medical biller and coder handles administrative tasks for a healthcare provider or medical facility that involve submitting accurately coded insurance claims to health insurance companies in order to receive payment from the insurance company.
Medical billing and coding specialists also answer questions about claims, posts payments and remain in contact with patients and insurance companies concerning claims that have been rejected or are pending following a review of the services listed on the claim. In addition, they may also be in charge of turning unpaid accounts over to collection agencies after a certain amount of time has elapsed between the patient receiving the bill and the last payment received, if any.
Coding a health insurance claim involves attention to accuracy, detail and the ability to determine the correct code number for the patient’s injury, illness, disease and treatment rendered by the physician. Also referred to as “medical classification”, medical coding uses alphanumeric or numeric strings that indicate the implementation of various items by a physician that are necessary to process an insurance claim. For example, a code that reads “XX990” may be the code for “acute bronchitis”. If the bronchitis was accompanied by a fever, the code may have an additional number or letter, such as “XX99044”, meaning “bronchitis–with fever”.
Thousands of such codes exist to describe an extensive list of medical conditions, procedures and treatment plans. However, because it would be nearly impossible to remember them all, people working as medical billing and coding specialists have access to the CPT 2012 book (Current Procedural Terminology) published by the American Medical Association. This book contains up-to-date information such as billing guidelines for various health insurance companies, hundreds of defined codes and Medicare/Medicaid rules.
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Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
All online medical billing and coding schools will include classes about HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act enacted in 1996. This act affects anyone who is employed in some way with the healthcare industry because it is meant to protect a patient’s privacy. Contact information, medical records, birth date and even benefit entitlements are all guarded by this act, whether it is an electronic, spoken or written record of the patient’s interaction with a medical facility. It is especially important to medical coders and billers because they have immediate access to such personal information and are primarily responsible for not divulging this information to anyone but the insurance company and individuals specified by the patient. Click here to learn more about HIPPA.
This video provides a complete overview on HIPPA.
According to a recent survey conducted by the AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders), respondents holding medical billing and coding positions reported that nearly 85 to 95 percent of their job consisted of coding insurance document. The remainder of their time involved billing and administrative duties. For this reason, some schools suggest that students consider enrolling in at least one or two business courses while also participating in their regular billing/coding program. Learning digital record keeping procedures using software programs such as Access, Excel and different medical office software will enhance your chances with employers searching for the most skilled and knowledgeable medical billing and coding specialists. Click here visit the AAPC website.
Online Medical Billing/Coding Programs
Penn Foster Career Schools offers a certification in medical billing and coding that takes only six months to complete, with low tuition rates, customized payment plans or 0 percent APR financing for students on a budget. Cost of the program is $730 when paid in full and $800 to $890 when choosing a payment plan. In addition, flexible class scheduling also allows busy students the ability to extend the six month program for as long as they need to complete assignments and exams.
Penn Foster is accredited by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council, which is a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
To be eligible for participation in an online medical billing and coding course, students need to have a high school diploma or GED (general equivalency/education diploma) and either scan or fax a copy of the document to the school’s administrative office.
Certified Coding Specialist Exam
All students graduating from the Penn Foster medical billing and coding program (as well as other accredited online schools offering the program) are eligible to take the Certified Coding Specialist exam (given by the American Health Information Management Association) and the Certified Professional Coder exam (given by the American Academy of Professional Coders). Although graduates are not required to take these examinations following certification, successfully completing one or both of these tests demonstrates a person’s excellent coding skills along with other administrative qualities that are attractive to potential employers.
Meditec Medical and Billing Training
With more than 40 years experience in medical billing and coding training, Meditec provides students with classes that involve coding nearly 650 real inpatient/outpatient charts as well as instruction in medical terminology and health insurance documentation practices. The school is state regulated and the price of tuition includes everything a student will need to successfully obtain certification in medical billing and coding procedure.
Other popular and accredited online schools offering certification in medical billing and coding include Colorado Technical University Online, Everest University Online and Kaplan Continuing Education programs.
To determine whether a student is eligible for federal financial assistance, schools recommend you fill out and submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). For those with incomes below a certain level, the federal government may provide students with Pell Grants that will pay for the cost of attending an online medical coding and billing school. Pell Grants do not need repaid and any amount left over after tuition has been paid can be used by the student to purchase books and supplies.
To successfully submit a FAFSA online, students will need to access and transmit the following information to the Department of Education:
- Driver’s license or other picture ID card
- Social Security card
- Previous year’s income tax forms (if applicable)
- Child support documentation
- Proof of any income obtained from scholarships, fellowship aid or grants
The school listed on the FAFSA in which a student plans to enroll is usually notified within six weeks of a student sending the form regarding his or her eligibility. That school will then contact the student to complete financial aid forms or discuss payment options if the student is ineligible for financial aid.
Employment Outlook for Medical Billing and Coding Opportunities
The most recent edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook reports that as with all professions dealing with the healthcare industry, medical billing and coding jobs are expected to increase as much as 20 percent by 2018. Experienced medical records specialists have the potential to earn $50,000 annually, depending on where the position is geographically located and type of medical facility.
Busy urban area hospitals and clinics will pay more for expert medical billers and coders than smaller emergency care establishments located in rural areas. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that this type of employment is one of the more stable occupations available and has continued to project a high demand for certified billers and coders over the past decade.