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How to Avoid Medical Coding Degree Fraud

medical coding scamsGet rich quick ads are everywhere.  Many of these advertisements seem too good to be true, and its because they are.  Recognizing how many people long to work from home, misleading medical coding websites reel in unsuspecting men and women every day with lines like “Stay home with your kids! Work on your schedule! Make thousands every week!”  And while those claims aren’t entirely false–they do happen for some coders, its only the certified, hard-working professionals who have put their hours in face-to-face for an employer who gain the best work-from-home opportunities.

Iin today’s economy, it’s difficult not to be temped by medical coding schools that promise easy financing and quick and easy results. But take it slow and do your homework first.  Ask some simple questions and verify their accreditation or certifications.  Its also a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau to search for any previous complaints before shelling out a dime of your hard-earned money.  Make sure there is a contact number and physical address for the school–and call it.  Sticking with reputable, established organizations may not feel like the quick and easy route, but you’ll be glad you did when you get the certification you paid for–and a great job. Nothing beneficial is easy, and you can’t get it overnight, so don’t fall for their tricks.


Why School Matters

Does it really matter if a program you are considering isn’t accredited?  Who will ever know if the school is really legitimate?  Unfortunately, most employers will. With the internet at their fingertips, it won’t take long to verify your creditials. Plus, to move beyond the $10/hour salary range, you’ll need to pass a certification, and an unaccredited school isn’t going to help you prepare.

Why spend thousands on a program that offers you no benefit in the end, when it really matters? You’re better off spending a few thousand more and committing to a program that will help you prepare when test time comes. Don’t accept a school’s word that it is accredited. Go to the accreditation agency and confirm the information yourself.


Warning Signs

You can’t become a professional coder in 30 days. You can’t. Expect a program of 6-12 months, depending on any specialties. Any school that promises otherwise is lying to you. Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and see if any complaints have been registered with them.

Do your research online and see what others have said about their experiences. Can you interview some teachers? Why not? Are internships part of the program? How can you verify the information?

“I almost lost $5,000 on a medical billing school that wasn’t legitimate,” said Pam Huber of Friendswood, Texas. “I was all signed up, was getting ready to give over my credit card information, and something in my gut made me decide to do a little digging. I don’t know if that school was a total scam, but I do know that it wasn’t the best place for me or my money. When I finish school, I want to pass the tests and get working!”


The Real Deal

Finding a legitimate school is easy. The American Health Information Management Association works to approve medical coding schools that are based on the AAMT Model Curriculum. They have a list of approved schools on their AAMT website.

Schools should offer courses in a variety of topics, including:

• Insurance abuse and fraud
• Pathology coding
• ICD-9 coding
• CPT surgical coding
• CPT non-surgical coding
• Medical terminology
• Anatomy and physiology
• Healthcare laws and ethics
• Insurance compliance

So take your time and look around.  Make sure to ask plenty of questions, and follow your gut.  If you are unsure, or you ever feel like you are being pushed into making a quick decision, step back.  Make sure to report any suspicious companies to the BBB too-this helps protect others just like you from making a mistake in the future.
Resources

American Health Information Management Association,
233 N. Michigan Ave., 21st Floor,
Chicago, IL 60601-5809.
http://www.ahima.org or http://himcareers.ahima.org

About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.

Read Rachel's full bio here...

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