Do you want to be a certified medical coder? If YES, here is a detailed guide to getting your medical billing and coding certification and how much it cost.
Starting a medical billing and coding business can be a good career path for people interested in the healthcare industry. Medical billers and coders are the ones who process and code health insurance claims, manage patient bills, and track quality assessments. They also work behind-the-scenes to help maintain the accuracy and integrity of the billing functions of healthcare providers.
When we go to the doctor’s, we mostly pay attention to the medical assistant and the doctor, after all they are the ones we interact with, but they are not the only ones striving to ensure that we have the best possible medical experience. We tend to be too busy worrying about our health ailments to notice the men and women working in the background making sure our medical claim are being processed and billed correctly.
Note that medical coding and billing are two different tasks handled by different individuals. But, in some small doctor’s office, an individual can handle both duties. That is why the more training and preparation a medical billing and coding professional receives, the more successful they will be on the job.
Difference Between a Medical Coder vs Medical Biller
It’s very important to state that a coders main role is to decode the service or procedure written on the patient’s documentation and then determine the exact procedure (CPT) and diagnosis code to submit. Medical coding workers invest time in assessing and properly coding the data, in order to make sure that the billing is free of any errors.
While the medical biller inputs the claims with the appropriate codes and submits the claim to the insurance company for billing. The medical biller then follows-up with the insurance company to make sure the claim has been approved, if there are any discrepancies or missing information, they reach out to the patient and let them know what is happening with their claim.
They are many reasons to consider these career paths, especially in modern America. Medical coding and billing professionals are very crucial in order for hospitals and other medical institutions to run effectively and efficiently. Report has it that the market for trained medical billing or coding professionals is growing much faster than the average for all other professions.
The demand for health services and trained healthcare professionals is expected to increase as the population ages and life expectancy keeps extending. Well trained and qualified medical billing and coding professionals have the opportunity to seek employment at hospitals, private clinics, health insurance companies, nursing care and rehabilitation facilities, or medical billing companies.
So, if you are serious about entering the medical billing and coding field, then you must undergo proper training and get certified. Medical billers and coders typically need post-secondary training.
How to Get Medical Billing and Coding Certification and How Much It Cost
To really stay or grow to the apex of this field, you need to gain or acquire certification. Those with certified status enjoy many benefits over their counterparts without certification, such as increased salary and job prospects. Have it in mind that certification programs vary depending on the level of education you want to reach, the amount of time you plan to invest in your education, and your budgetary needs.
Note that medical coding and billing advancement options can include a certificate, diploma, degree, or training course. You can also consider an alternative route to the traditional education experience, and prepare for your medical billing and coding certification online. Below are the few routes to acquire medical billing and coding certifications;
- Certificate or Diploma Program
It’s important to note that medical coding and billing certificate and diploma programs begin the postsecondary education available for students interested in working in this industry. But, these two programs differ. Certificate programs tend to need less time to complete, with slightly more restrictive curricula than diploma programs.
This certificate program benefits career-focused students who plan to get out into the workforce as quickly as possible. Individuals looking for a well-rounded curriculum may opt for the longer diploma program.
- Time to finish: 4-12 months
- Cost: $800-$4,500
- Subjects Covered: Here, students study medical coding, medical billing, clinical terminology, electronic medical records practices, laws, ethics, confidentiality, anatomy, physiology, and managed care.
- Program Outcome: After the program, students earning a medical coding and billing certificate learn how to submit claims to insurance companies for reimbursement, process bills, navigate billing software, and navigate insurance plans. Students explore the basics of medical coding. Graduates can enter careers as medical coders, medical records coordinators, and health information clerks.
Associate Degree Program
This particular programs is another path toward obtaining your medical billing and coding certification, although it is said to more costly than the certificate or diploma path. Also, earning an associate degree also takes more time but may bring about more career options. A lot of employers prefer job candidates with an associate degree in medical billing and coding over their counterparts with certificates or diplomas.
Furthermore, some professional certifications require an associate degree, such as the Registered Health Information Technician exam and the certified professional biller certification. Have it in mind that graduates with associate degrees have the option of continuing their education and applying their credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
- Time to Complete: Two years
- Cost: $6,000-$13,000
- Subjects Covered: Coupled with the basic courses covered in the diploma and certificate programs, associate degrees usually require students to take general education courses such as English, math, natural and social sciences.
- Program Outcome: Note that graduates of these associate degrees gain familiarity with medical billing and coding procedure and can assign accurate medical codes for various healthcare services. These professionals qualify to work in medical clinics and for insurance companies.
Note that a bachelor’s degree can serve as an extra qualification for those pursuing a career in medical billing and coding. Individuals sometimes obtain their bachelor’s degrees in health information management or healthcare administration. Earning a four-year degree provides the comprehensive education and training that prepares graduates to enter their careers.
These degrees generally take about four years to complete and often come at a higher cost than an associate degree or certificate/diploma program. But, bachelor’s degrees provide the in-depth training that employers often seek in candidates. Have it in mind that graduates may be qualified for more lucrative levels of employment, such as management positions.
- Time to Complete: Four years
- Cost: $36,000-$120,000
- Subjects Covered: Students in this route and field generally study health informatics and management. Students learn the basics of collecting, processing, and protecting patient healthcare data, while studying the administrative procedures involved in healthcare settings.
- Program Outcome: Graduates from a bachelor’s program in health information management or healthcare administration may work as medical service managers and health information technicians.
It’s very necessary to state that certain credentialing organizations, such as AAPC, offer prep courses for many medical billing and coding certification exams. AAPC’s training courses prepare individuals who hope to become a certified professional coder (CPC), certified outpatient coder (COC), or certified inpatient coder (CIC).
AAPC medical coding classes take place entirely online and can be finished in four months or less. Individuals who prefer learning in a formal classroom setting may be able to find an AAPC course in their area. Note that these classes benefit students with a strong knowledge of topics, such as anatomy and medical terminology.
AAPC advise that individuals who have taken both the preparation course and passed the certification exam to become CPCs. Later, they may earn an associate or bachelor’s degree through an accredited program, if they choose to pursue additional education.
There are many programs for medical billing and coding online. Interested individuals often find that the online learning environment gives them the tools required to integrate their education into their busy lives. Whether preparing for your medical billing and coding certification with a certificate, diploma, degree, or professional training course, you can pursue your education through distance learning.
It also offer flexibility and convenience that traditional programs cannot. Distance learners generally access and complete course material when it best fits their schedules. This allows students to fit in schoolwork around their existing time commitments, such as work and family life. In addition, most online students enjoy the freedom to work on their degrees from home, as opposed to relocating and/or commuting to campus.
Acquiring Medical Billing and Coding certifications is not where it ends, you also have to maintain those certifications. If you obtained your certificate through the AAPC, your work isn’t over once you pass your exam. You must complete 36 hours of continuing education (CE) every 2 years to keep your certification valid.
Seminars, online courses, workshops and other opportunities are available for CE. This ensures your skills stay up to date. While you’re also expected to complete 20 hours of CE biyearly for AHIMA. Training courses, seminars, meetings, and other forms of continuing education are also required for those with certifications through AHIMA exams. You are responsible for 20 hours of CE every 2 years.
Also aside from the continuing education hours, some coding certifications also demand you do self-assessment projects in order to stay current. CCS, CCA, CCS-P, and specialty certifications may have slightly varying requirements, so be sure you know what you need to do to keep your certificate valid.