Billing, coding...or both?

by Tina
(Watson)

Hi Gina! First I want to say that your website has been amazing!!! I went from knowing nothing about billing to having a pretty good idea of what I'm looking at just in a few days of searching your site and following links. So thank you for taking the time to put this together.


I am currently active duty in the U.S.Coast Guard, I have a ten yr old daughter and I am pregnant with our second child, my husband is also in the CG.

My contract ends in one year and I am VERY interested in getting out of the military and starting my own business in medical billing/coding. My ultimate goal is to work my business from home so I can have the flexibility with my children.

I've ready a lot of posts and it seems to be very difficult to find that first client without experience. I know there are some billers/coders that have been successful enough to hire other billers to work with them. Do you think it is possible to find a billing firm like this and bill from home for them to get the experience I need? I really don't want to work outside the home if at all possible, if I have to I will. Is it common for this to be a possibility? I have a friend who has a friend that is a successful biller in FL, she has expanded to hire other billers to work for her. Could I possibly start out working for/with someone like this to get my foot in the door for experience or is this just wishful thinking?

My other question is, I have a friend that went to the Career Institute and took a medical coding course. She got her certificate of completion but then when she tried to get hired, they would not except this certificate as it was just a certificate showing she completed the course. I'm confused on these certificates? She did not take the "exam" that I've read about that is like 800 questions long...is that the certification the Doctors are looking for?

I want to get certified in medical billing and coding as I think it will be beneficial for me to have both of these skills to offer my clients. I saw that you said there is no course for medical billing AND coding, that they are separate...so should I do the billing first and then coding or does it matter?

I'm sorry this is so long but I have a million questions and before I make the decision to separate from the military and step out on this journey, I want to make sure that I am taking the right courses and getting the right certifications. I would be devastated if I had the experience my friend did, paying $1500 for a course, completing it, just to find out it's not enough and I have to do more.

I sincerely appreciate your time and your guidance.

Thank you in advance, Tina Watson

Response:

Tina,

Thanks for the kind comments - glad the site has helped you.
You are right - it is difficult to find that first client. The way I got started is by working for a friend who had a billing business she was operating out of her home - she let me work from home also which was great. It really helped me learn the processes while also having someone to guide me and answer all the questions. If you have this opportunity I would highly recommend it. It sounds like you already know someone so you may want to pursue that option.

With regard to the certificate - I think every potential employer is different but in coding many employers prefer certification as it kind of guarantees a minimum competence in coding. Really the certificate program in coding should help prepare one to take the coding exam.

I really didn’t take any formal courses in billing or coding - just learned on the job. I really didn’t do much coding at first but eventually learned it for our providers specialty out of necessity. After a while when you are billing for a client you really get to know the codes for that specialty pretty well. Many providers use a lot of the same common codes for most of their patient visits.

If you are going to get certified I would recommend the AAPC certification. There’s a lot of good info on it on their site AAPC.com. And most local community and trade colleges have good courses towards getting certified that would probably be the most affordable training. There’s no requirement to attend school or have a certificate in order to take the AAPC certification exams. It’s just that coding can be so complex that most people want some training before sitting for the exam. There are some with a lot of experience that take the exam without formal training.

For just billing alone - if you take a course - it really shouldn’t take more than 3 to 6 months. There’s a lot of people we’ve heard from that spend a lot of time and money to complete a certificate program - but have a hard time getting a job. Really once you know the fundamentals - on the job experience is one of the best ways of training. I’ve never seen a job ad for a Medical Biller that required certification in billing - they almost always ask for a minimum of 3 to 5 years experience. Coding is different - many employers prefer hiring someone who is certified.

Hope this helps answer your questions - if not feel free to submit comments and we’ll try to answer.

Thanks again for visiting the site Tina,

Gina

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