How to Become a Medical Biller and Coder near Washington District of Columbia
Once you have made a decision to become part of the healthcare field by enrolling in a medical billing and coding school near Washington DC, it’s crucial that you choose the appropriate school so that you receive the proper education to ensure your success. As you may already know, healthcare is one of the fastest growing fields in the United States, and more and more options are available both on campus and online to receive the training that you need. But just where do you start? A number of future students start by looking for programs that are within driving distance of their residences and then comparing cost. Or they may surf the internet looking for online classes and go with the least expensive one. But while cost and location are relevant factors when making your determination, they should not be the only ones when researching medical billing and coding schools. Such qualifications as accreditation and reputation must be considered also. We will review a checklist of topics that you should ask the medical billing and coding schools you are evaluating in order to find out what you need to know prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what medical coders and billers do and the training and certification options offered.
Medical Coder Job Description
Medical coders work on the forefront of the billing systems for Washington DC private practices and healthcare organizations. They have the responsibility to examine the medical records of patients and convert all services provided into universal codes. These services may be for diagnosis, medical or dental procedures, or any equipment or medical supplies utilized. 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 use information from sources such as 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. Inaccurately coded claims may result in services not being covered, services being paid at a reduced rate, or the physician or facility being penalized for fraudulent or improper billing. Since improper coding can actually cost Washington DC hospitals and doctors multiple thousands of dollars in revenue every year, a good medical coder is an important asset for any healthcare organization. They can operate in any kind of healthcare facility, including family practices, hospitals, clinics and critical care centers. It is not unusual for seasoned medical coders to working from home as an offsite employee or an independent contractor.
Medical Billing Job Duties
As important as the medical coder’s function is, it would be for nothing without the contribution of the medical biller whose efforts generate revenue. Medical billing clerks are extremely important to Washington DC medical facilities and are literally responsible for keeping them in business. Sometimes the biller and coder may be the same individual within a healthcare organization, but they can also be two separate specialists. Once the coder has completed her or his duty, the biller uses the codes supplied to complete and submit claim forms to insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare. After being adjusted by the appropriate organization, patients can then be billed for deductibles or other out of pocket expenses. On a routine basis, a medical billing clerk might also do any of the following:
- Confirm health insurance coverages for patients and help them with billing questions or concerns
- Follow up on submitted patient claims and appeal any that have been declined
- Act as an intermediate between the medical provider, the insurance companies and the patients for correct claim resolution
- Produce and control Accounts Receivables reports
- Create and manage unpaid patient collections accounts
Medical billing clerks not only are employed by private practices, but also Washington DC hospitals, urgent care facilities, nursing homes or medical groups. They can practice in any kind of healthcare facility that depends on the incomes generated from billing patients and third party payers.
Medical Biller and Coder Education and Certification
It’s essential that you obtain your training from a reputable school, whether it’s a trade school, vocational school or community college. Although it is not required in many cases to attain a professional certification, the school you select should be accredited (more on the benefits of accreditation later). Most colleges just require that you have either a high school diploma or a GED to appy. The fastest way to become either a medical biller or coder (or both) is to attain a certificate, which usually takes about a year to accomplish. 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 in medical billing and coding are not abundantly available. After your education has been completed, although not mandated in most states, you might wish to acquire a professional certification. Certification is a great way for those new to the profession to show potential Washington DC employers that they are not only qualified but committed to their occupation. Just some of the organizations that make available 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, along with obtaining a professional certification, are the best ways to accelerate your new vocation and succeed in the fast growing Washington DC medical care field.
Online Medical Biller and Coder Colleges
If you are interested in flexibility and the convenience of attending classes in your home, then choosing an medical billing and coding online college might be a good alternative. They can be particularly appealing to individuals living in Washington DC who anticipate attending school while still working or have additional obligations that make going to classes on campus difficult. And as an added advantage, online colleges are in many cases less expensive than the standard classroom options. Expenses for such items as tuition, commuting and study materials may be reduced or eliminated. But be careful, as not all online programs are reputable. For that reason it’s essential to verify that the online college you enroll in is accredited to guarantee a superior education. We will address the advantages of accreditation in the next segment. Just make sure to verify that any online college you are looking at is accredited by one of the national accrediting agencies, such as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. So if you are disciplined enough to apply yourself to this mode of learning, then acquiring your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Medical Billing and Coding Schools
Now that you have a better idea just what a medical biller and coder does, in addition to what training options are available, you need to start the process of comparing schools. But since there many training options offered at community colleges as well as technical, trade and vocational schools within the Washington DC area, you must have a prepared list of questions in order to evaluate each one. And when you add all of the online programs that offer medical coding and billing classes, the task can become somewhat daunting. As we have already addressed, location and cost are going to be important issues, especially if you have a limited budget and will be commuting to classes from your Washington home. And confirming that the program and school are accredited should be part of your vetting procedure also. So let’s review a few of the additional questions that you should ask the schools you are considering so that you can evaluate each one and make the ideal choice.
Is the School Accredited? It’s crucial that the program and school you decide on are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools. If it’s an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Not only will accreditation help guarantee that the training you receive will be of the highest quality, it might help secure future employment also. A number of Washington DC medical facilities will only hire entry level applicants that have completed an accredited medical coding and billing training course. And financial assistance and student loans are frequently only obtainable for programs that have received an accreditation.
What is the Program’s Reputation? Prior to choosing a medical billing and coding school, check out what its reputation and ranking are among other programs. This is particularly important if you have no experience in the industry, since potential employers will basically be relying on the quality of your training. As we have covered, verifying that the program is accredited is an initial step. Checking with college rating organizations, for instance U.S. News and World Report, can confirm the quality of the school also. Another option is to contact some Washington DC healthcare organizations that you might have an interest in working for and find out which colleges they recommend. Keep in mind that even if the college itself does not have an outstanding reputation, its medical coding and billing program may still be well regarded.
Is there a Job Referral Program? Obtaining employment in Washington DC after graduation in your new profession can be challenging without the support of a job assistance program. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have job assistance programs and what their job placement rates are. A rapid and high placement rate is an excellent indication that the coding and billing college has a substantial network of medical care employers where they can refer their graduates. It also implies that the college’s graduates are in high demand in the marketplace.
Where is the College’s Location? If you are planning on commuting to class from your Washington DC residence, then the location of the school will be of significant importance. Obviously if you select an online medical billing and coding program, then the location of the college will not be a consideration. One thing to keep in mind is that if you attend classes at a community or junior college, many require 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 Overall Expense? Medical billing and coding certification programs can vary in cost based on the type of credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Just keep in mind, tuition is not the only expense for your education. Expenses also consist of such things as the cost of supplies, books and commuting. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset a portion of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Washington DC. Of course if you decide to attend an online college, a portion of these additional costs, particularly for commuting may be minimized or even eliminated.
Are Classes Accessible that Accommodate your Schedule? A number of students keep working while attending school and require a flexible class schedule. If you can only go to classes at night or on weekends near Washington DC, confirm that they are offered at those times. If you can only enroll on a part time basis, check that the school you pick provides that option. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family responsibilities.
Considering Medical Billing and Coding School near Washington DC?
If you are considering enrolling in and attending a billing and coding school near Washington DC, following is some relevant information about the area that may aid in your decision making process.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States of America. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. Washington is the principal city of the Washington Metropolitan Area, which has a population of 6,131,977. Washington is described as the political Capital of the World, owing to its status as the seat of the United States Federal Government and numerous international institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Washington is one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million annual tourists.
The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country's East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any state. The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of President George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District.
Washington had an estimated population of 693,972 as of July 2017. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city's population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is the principal city, has a population of over 6 million, the sixth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.
Choose the Ideal Medical Billing and Coding School near Washington DC
Enrolling in the ideal medical coding and billing degree or certificate course is a very important initial step to help guarantee your success in this rewarding specialty of healthcare. Medical coding and medical billing are 2 of the most rapidly growing jobs in the health sector. As a result, there are a lot of trade schools, community colleges and companies that furnish training and education in medical billing and coding. As we have discussed, you can decide to attend classes either online or on campus. It’s also imperative that the college you select has an accredited program with an excellent reputation within the healthcare field. But however you elect to receive your training, by following the previous guidelines and posing the appropriate questions, you will be better qualified to analyze your options and pick the ideal program. And with the appropriate education, you can achieve your career goal to become a medical billing and coding clerk in Washington DC.
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