Medical billing and coding professionals deal with patient records, assign codes to patient diagnoses, work with insurance companies to ensure prompt and proper payment. They are a critical piece of the healthcare industry. There are a variety of ways that you can obtain certification for this job.
You must make sure you go through a legit organization, you choose the proper certification, and you find a quality program to move you towards a quality career. Before starting out on your path to certification, you must first find out the CPC certification cost.
Get Educated First
You must find out the education requirements for your goals. When you know the type of healthcare setting you’d like to work in, get in touch with the HR department about what they look for when hiring a medical billing and coding professional. This will help you determine which degree you should pursue and the certification you might want.
If you haven’t already, make sure to finish high school or get your GED as the very first step towards your medical billing and coding certification. After high school, you should consider a diploma program.
This will typically take you about 6 to 9 months and will give you basic medical and billing training. Typically, it’s a fairly low-cost program and you can find it at a career college, online, or your local community college.
However, you must also keep in mind that many programs do at least suggest an Associate’s Degree. A diploma program is a great place to start- and can be beneficial if you are motivated for teaching yourself- but it’s not necessarily going to get you where you need to be. If you plan to go on to a 4-year program, make sure to get your associate’s degree instead of a diploma.
Beware of the programs and classes that you find online. After all, there are lots of scams out there. If you find a website promising a large salary, short certification course/process, low fees, or requires you to pay a lot of money up front- chances are it’s not a legit program.
If you decide to get an associates program, be aware that it can cost you a few thousand dollars, but you can find it at most community colleges. You are going to find that many employers, as well as professional organizations, do require at least a 2-year degree.
A bachelor’s degree is a more extensive way to approach a career in medical billing and coding. This is a 4-year program, but the salary difference may be worth it to you.
Make sure that the program you enroll in is accredited. Ask around to students of the various programs to get their thoughts and opinions. Ask the employers in the field of medical billing and coding which program they recommend. Take time to research what each program requires in order to apply, the cost of the program, their pass/fail ratio for the exam, and anything else you’re curious about.
Choose Your Certification
As mentioned, you want to make sure the education program you purse is accredited. This way, you can be sure that your work will be recognized by potential employers. Two of the largest and most recognized organizations are the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management (AHIMA). You can find tools on their websites to help you find a credible program in your area.
You will be required to pass a certification exam- given by the AAPC or AHIMA. The certification you choose will be the organization in which you also obtain membership. You should be able to pass your exam if you have attended an accredited program and also have the recommended work experience.
Becoming Certified through AHIMA
If you decide that you want to be certified through AHIMA, then you will choose from three levels of certification. You will need to join AHIMA to be eligible for these:
- CCA: Certified Coding Assistant- requires a high school diploma to take the exam. After you pass, you will need to get six months of work experience after you have completed the certification program.
- CCS: Certified Coding Specialist- requires 3 years of work experience, plus coursework in anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and physiology to pass the exam. This is typically a much more popular option than the CCA.
- CCS-P: Certified Coding Specialist- Physician-based- if you plan to work in a clinic with several specialties, in a physician’s office, group practice, or specialty physician’s office, this is the certification you are going to need.
Becoming Certified through AAPC
In order to become certified through the AAPC, you must be a member of the organization, pay a fee for the exam, and pass the exam. After passing the exam, you will be granted an “Apprentice Certification”. Once you have gotten 2 years of experience in the field, the “-A” will be removed from your certification and you’ll be a professional.
The standard certification is CPC. You will have this once you have gotten 2 years of work experience, 2 letters of recommendation regarding your proficiency, or 80 hours of education. If you plan to work in a clinic or hospital setting, you might consider a CPC-H certification. If you have extra skill regarding payment procedures, you’ll receive a CPC-P certification.
No matter what certification you decide that you want to get, you will need to do some research to find out the CPC certification cost and the requirements for certification.