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How to Avoid Bad Medical Coding and Billing Training Programs

One of the biggest drawbacks to the increasing need for medical billers and coders is the rise of programs that are nothing but diploma mills. These unscrupulous companies take your money and leave you with a piece of paper but no true marketability. Here are some clues that the program isn’t a good one:

  • Their ads claim that, in just a few weeks time, you’ll be operating your own business out of your home, and clients will be beating down your door. Reputable medical billing and coding programs may tout some of the ways you can use a degree, but they don’t make big promises about riches and fame.

  • They promise that you can get certification of completion with a minimal amount of study or classwork. Quality programs — whether college, vocational, or online — require both classroom time and self-study time. In addition, the material covered is similar across the board and includes instruction in anatomy, medical terminology, coding, insurance rules for both Medicare and commercial insurers, and billing software programs.

How do you tell a credible program from ones that are just scams? Start by checking with AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) and the AAPC. Both organizations’ websites list accredited training programs, those that offer the correct curriculum, have instructors certified to teach, and use a curriculum that follows the guidelines established by the organization.

For more on each organization’s accreditation criteria, go to their websites: AHIMA and AAPC. Both organizations also have search tools that assist in finding certified training programs. These groups can recommend a program that fits your needs without taking you to the bank.

If your researching schools on your own, get answers to these questions:

  • How long has the school been in business?

  • Is the school accredited?

  • How many students are in each class, and what is the student-to-teacher ratio?

  • Can you reach the instructor outside of class?

  • If the curriculum does not suit you, what is the refund policy?

  • Does the school have a placement department to help graduates find jobs?

  • What is the program’s placement rate for graduates?

  • What are the credentials of the instructors, and what is the ratio of full time versus adjunct instructors?

You can also ask to see the school’s business license. In addition, legitimate schools have financial aid advisors to assist prospective students with finding a way to finance their training. Ideally, the financial aid pays for books and supplies. Some grants even pay for room and board. These financial aid packages are the same ones that community college and four-year-college students are given.

If the school representative seems less than truthful or tries to convince you that, after six weeks, students are suddenly inundated with job offers, walk away. If the representative tells you that completion of the program prepares students to open a home office and start a business, run away. These are all signs of diploma mills.

Another indication that the school is a possible scam is that it has changed its name several times or has moved from state to state.

Bottom line: If it smells fishy or sounds too good to be true, it is.

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