Medical billing and coding is a boom industry these days, which means plenty of jobs
Unfortunately, as the number of job opportunities and training programs rise, so do the number of people trying to take advantage of eager trainees. Scams are abundant in the medical coding and billing world, and they’re frequently targeted at people who are just getting started in the field. If you’ve got no experience in coding and billing, how are you to know what’s a reputable program and what’s a scam? In this course, we’ll help you figure that out.
If It’s Too Good to Be True, It Is
The majority of scams you’ll see online promise you a billing or coding certification in less than a month. You can study from home! You’ll get to work from home! Just take these ten classes and you’ll have a job within weeks.
If only it were that easy.
Medical billing and coding takes a long time to master. You should expect your training in coding and billing to take at least six months to a year, and most associate’s degree programs take two years. The coding and billing professions are too complicated to master in just a month. Even with 36 hours in a day, there’s no way you could learn about anatomy and physiology, ICD-9-CM codes, CPT codes, coding regulations, billing guidelines, payer structures, HCPCS compliance—you get the idea.
How long a program in billing and coding takes should be your first tip-off. If you see anything promising a certification or completion of a program in under half a year, just skip the whole thing.
Working at Home
Another favorite selling point of the billing and coding scam is the chance to work at home. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home parent, or maybe you just like the idea of setting up your own home office. Another version of this is the “start your own billing/coding business” scam. Plenty of programs offer software, instructional courses, and a network of professional contacts looking for coding and/or billing help.
Think about it: Billing and coding are incredibly important parts of the healthcare reimbursement process, and coders and billers handle loads of delicate private information like social security numbers and the medical histories of patients. Do you think any provider would fork that information over to someone with no experience in the field, and thus no professional references?
The people who do run billing and coding services out of their homes tend to have years of experience, sometimes more than a decade. You have to prove that you know the ins and outs of the whole enterprise, and no one will hire a brand-new coder with no track record of coding or billing employment. If you’re going to start out as a medical coder, you’ll do it at a provider’s office.
The short take: Avoid any program that says you’ll be able to work at home or start your own business.
Other Ways to Spot a Scam
If a service offering you coding and/or billing instruction isn’t accredited or affiliated with any of the major professional associations like the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) or American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), you should probably steer clear.
As we covered in the previous course, accreditation is the process of confirming the quality of instruction at an educational institution. Bear in mind that for-profit online schools (like the University of Phoenix) are in fact accredited, but that doesn’t make them any more suitable options for learning coding and billing. Like many scams, private for-profit schools offer coding expertise in just months, where, as we know, it can take more than a year to become fully competent in billing and coding.
Health information professional associations (like AAPC and AHIMA) also have a stake in preventing coding and billing scams. If a program that’s offering coding and billing instruction isn’t endorsed or recognized by one of these major professional associations, it’s not worth your money to take classes from them.
Finally, you should check with the Better Business Bureau about the status of a questionable coding and billing agency. Chances are good that if a billing or coding instruction service is a scam, they’ll have complaints filed against them. Do your research and you’ll be able to spot a scam in no time.
In conclusion, any coding and billing instruction service that seems too good to be true probably is. You should avoid any instructional program that promises you employment, certification, or expertise in anything less than six months. (And it’s always better to err on the side of caution and look only at programs that take a year or longer). A coding and billing instructional program should be accredited or recognized by the major professional organizations in the field.
The best way to avoid a medical billing and coding scam is to skip the shortcuts altogether. Look for certificate or associate degree programs at your local community college or trade school.