When it comes to the metaphorical machinery of the medical industry, people tend to think of doctors and nurses. After all, they are the face of the profession. But few people consider that the work of these practitioners would come to a grinding halt without the help of the indispensable, behind-the-scenes employees like medical billing and coding specialists.
Both medical billing and coding professionals perform critical functions in healthcare practices. Coding professionals interpret and assign codes to patient records for insurance companies to ensure that providers are appropriately compensated for their services, and billing professionals calculate and collect payment for those same services. Through their meticulous efforts, both play a pivotal role in helping providers and patients.
If you are considering a career in medical billing and/or coding in Maryland, you are likely aware of the benefits of the profession—autonomy, flexibility, and good pay—but you may still be wondering exactly what it takes to get started. Maybe you are overwhelmed by choosing a program and confused about getting certified, or perhaps you have questions about whether you have the skills and temperament to succeed in the field. Luckily for you, we’ve prepared the following guide to medical billing and coding in Maryland to address these concerns and more. Keep reading to discover how you can embark on a career you love and do your part to keep the wheels of healthcare turning.
A Look at Popular Medical Billing and Coding Programs in Maryland
Finding the perfect school should be high on your list of priorities when it comes to beginning your career in medical billing and coding. You should look for an accredited institution that offers a quality, well-rounded program at an affordable cost. To help kickstart your search, we have spotlighted three top-notch medical billing and coding schools and classes in Maryland.
Allegany College of Maryland
The one-year Medical Coding and Billing Certificate program at Allegany College of Maryland prepares graduates to pass the CPC exam and work in a variety of healthcare settings. In addition to learning how to accurately code patient diagnoses, services, and procedures according to the latest manuals, students learn to prepare insurance forms, troubleshoot billing discrepancies, post payments, and collect unpaid balances. The college has an open door admissions policythat does not require students to provide evidence of previous education, experience, or references, but students must meet the reading requirement on the Accuplacer to gain entrance to the program.
For in-county students, the estimated annual cost of attendance is $4,920. And, although the cost for out-of-county and out-of-state students is higher, the program’s designation as a Health Manpower Shortage Program enables out-of-county students to receive partial reimbursement for a portion of the cost difference. Furthermore, Allegany’s scholarship foundation features many funding opportunities for students in the allied health field.
All State Career
All-State Career School offers its Medical Billing and Coding Administrator program in a primarily on-campus format in Baltimore. In this program, students learn skills essential to the job, including completing procedural coding and reviewing and submitting insurance forms. They also learn to process admission and discharge documents and collect patient information. To enroll, prospective students must schedule a personalized career planning session with an admissions advisor during which they discuss their professional goals, financial aid questions, and more.
The school is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). In their last semester, students meet with the director of career services to discuss job placement opportunities and receive personalized assistance in their job search.
Morgan State University
Students at Morgan State University’s 100% online Medical Billing and Coding program can earn their certificate in under a year, during which time they learn the ins and outs of the most recent HCPCS, CPT Category II, and ICD-10 manuals, and gain valuable hands-on experience with state of the art billing and coding software. The course also includes an externship starter kit to help students earn valuable field experience before graduating. For those interested in working exclusively in billing, Morgan state offers a standalone Medical Biller certificate option. Neither program requires prerequisites for entry.
Students can enroll in the course at any time and complete it over the course of 12 months. While completing the course students have access to support and guidance from their instructors and advising team via email. The total cost of the program is $2,995, and includes instructional and study materials and a voucher for the exam of their choice—CPC, CCA, or CBCS. To help students manage costs, the school offers a number of financial assistance options, including a 12-month financing option and military tuition assistance.
Skills of Successful Medical Billing and Coding Students
There are many types of people who pursue careers in medical billing and coding and while it would be impossible to fit them all into one box, it is fair to say that many people who are successful at this job (and at the training it requires) share a number of characteristics. Keep reading to see what they are and how they can help you succeed in your medical billing and coding classes and career.
Adaptability to Technology
Although some medical billing and coding tasks may be completed on paper, the vast majority of work is digital. As a result, many programs include hands-on training with the latest billing and coding software being used in the field. Being comfortable with current technology and willing to learn future versions when it inevitably evolves is essential.
Attention to Detail
Learning the ins and outs of medical coding systems and billing procedures requires a keen eye for small details—an ability that is all the more crucial when it comes to doing the actual job. A mistake like inputting the wrong code can have serious ramifications, including claim rejections, incorrect charges to a patient, or even the denial of important medical services.
Commitment to Confidentiality
Medical billing and coding professionals have access to sensitive patient information on a daily basis, so it is imperative that they are able to keep this knowledge absolutely confidential. Breaching patient confidentiality is not only an ethical issue, but also a legal one covered by HIPAA; failing to comply with this law can have serious consequences for all involved.
Strong Communication Skills
Strong verbal and written communication skills are a key to success in medical coding and billing training programs—students must use them to complete assignments, ask questions, and request feedback. And these skills continue to be vital in the field when discussing detailed information with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and patients.
Considerations When Choosing a Medical Billing & Coding School
When it comes to medical billing and coding programs in Maryland, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. To be sure that you are choosing the school that will best meet your needs, you need to carefully weigh several factors. For example, is the program reputable? Does it fit your budget? Does the instructional format fit your schedule? Keep reading to gain an understanding of how to soundly assess the programs that you are considering.
In short, accreditation is an endorsement of a college or educational program’s quality according to set standards. Attending an institution that holds proper accreditation guarantees that you will receive sound instruction that prepares you to pass the billing/coding certification test of your choice and succeed in the field. It also ensures that potential employers will view your education as valid. Regional accreditation is regarded as the most prestigious, but specialized programs also often hold separate programmatic accreditation. The foremost programmatic accreditation for medical billing and coding programs is through the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Cost & Financial Aid
The cost of earning your medical billing and coding certificate in Maryland can vary significantly, so it’s important to check the particulars of any program you are considering. For example, many schools, including Prince George’s Community College charge higher tuition fees to students who do not reside in the same county as the school’s campus. Tuition also varies across schools. The medical billing and coding program at Fortis College is $18,808, while that at Morgan State University is just $2,995.
Financial aid options are largely dependent upon the specific program, but many schools offer payment plans or scholarship opportunities. Programs that do not result in traditional college credit are not eligible for federal student aid, but private loans through the school or a lending institution may be available.
Curriculum & Certificate Preparation
There are actually many different certification options that medical billing and coding students can choose to take according to their specific career goals and interests. As such, it’s important to ensure that the curriculum of your intended program will prepare you to pass the test you’re most likely to take. Many programs specify which test(s) their curriculums target, including the certified professional coder (CPC), certified coding associate (CCA), or certified billing and coding specialist (CBCS). However, if this information is not immediately identifiable, be sure to verify it before enrolling.
Knowing how and when you will complete your studies is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to selecting a program. If you opt for a traditional in-person format, you will report to a physical campus for each class at a specified time. On the other end of the spectrum, an entirely asynchronous online program will allow you to move at your own pace without ever having to step foot on a physical campus.
Hybrid programs and synchronous online programs fall somewhere in the middle. The hybrid format allows you to complete some of your courses online while attending certain courses, externships, or program events in person. A synchronous online program has no in-person requirements, but will require you to attend scheduled online meetings with your instructor and classmates.
The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Biller & Coder
Developing a realistic mental picture of the day-to-day reality of a medical billing/coding professional before you begin your studies can help you make sure that you will actually enjoy the work. To help you gain some perspective, we’ve discussed some of the main pros and cons of the job in the section below.
FAQs About Maryland Medical Billing and Coding Programs
By now, you have almost everything you need to take your first steps toward your brand-new medical billing and coding career in Maryland. However, there may still be a question or two swirling around inside your head. That’s why we’ve answered some of the most common questions asked by prospective coding/billing students. Keep reading to see if your query is among them.
Are medical billing and coding classes ever offered online or part-time?
Short answer? Absolutely! Online and hybrid options for medical billing and coding classes are available at schools across Maryland. For example, Morgan State University’s self-paced program is 100% online, while the program at Fortis College follows a hybrid format (some coursework is completed online and some in-person). Part-time options, however, are not terribly common. This is likely due to the fact that most programs are already relatively short—generally under one year. Nevertheless, an online, self-paced program does allow students to study on their own time, so this format offers many of the same advantages as being a part-time student.
Are there any prerequisites for medical billing and coding programs?
Generally, there are no strict prerequisites for medical billing and coding programs, but most will recommend that applicants possess at least a high school diploma or equivalent prior to enrolling, since it is required to sit for certification tests. In a few cases, such as the medical coding program offered at Anne Arundel Community College, prospective students must also complete courses in biology, anatomy and physiology, and digital technology.
How much do medical billers and coders make in Maryland?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the mean annual wage for Maryland-based medical records specialists (one of the most popular positions among entry-level billing and coding specialists) is $55,170. Averages in most of the state’s major metropolitan areas are similar to this figure: $55,610 in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson area and $58,710 in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area. There are some areas where salaries dip below the state average, though. For example, the medical records specialists earn $47,000 in the Salisbury area.
What certification exam(s) do I need to take before I can start working?
Your best bet is to earn a certification in the niche that interests you. This will prove to employers that you have the skills to meet their needs, and increases your chances of working in a job you love. The three most common certification exams are the certified professional coder (CPC), certified coding associate (CCA), and certified billing and coding specialist (CBCS). You can also choose to take the certified outpatient coder (COC) or certified inpatient coder (CIC) exams, that emphasize more specialized skill sets.
What is the process for applying to a medical billing and coding school?
The application process can vary from school to school. Some are as simple as clicking “enroll” and following subsequent steps to check out. Others, like Anne Arundel Community College, have more formal application procedures that include attending an information session, completing prerequisites, and submitting standardized test scores or passing placement tests.