What is a Medical Billing Degree?

Medical BillingWhen you think of a career in the medical field, you usually think doctor or nurse, right? Well, not when it comes down to the other side of the spectrum with billing and coding careers.

A medical billing degree prepares students to work in medical billing, assessing paperwork, entering data, and communicating with medical facilities and insurance companies. The interaction between the doctor, hospital, or other healthcare facility and the insurance company is known as the billing cycle. Some billing cycles are very short, while others are very long; it all depends on the complexity of the treatment and whether or not the insurance is going to cover it. This can be a long process at times and is aided by a medical billing agent who keeps track of the status of the bill. In a medical billing degree program students learn how to work with inpatient and outpatient billing. Some programs also teach students coding, which revolves around three primary types of medical coding. The program will help students prepare for a medical billing certificate, which enables them to work in their state. There are three types of certification exams a medical billing agent can sit to become eligible for work.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Medical Billing Degree?

The majority of medical billing degree programs take eight months to a year to complete. The course work consists of learning billing procedures and coding, if you plan on being certified in both areas. Whether you are studying medical billing or billing and coding, you can expect the program to take about a year before you’re able to gain employment. Some medical billing degree programs that are exclusively online limit how many courses a student can take at once. For these programs, you may be in school about 14-16 months depending on the program. All of the details on how long a program will take and how many hours you’re allowed to register for will be explained in a course packet at a school or on the program’s website.

Are Online Medical Billing Degrees Accredited?

Sometimes. Many medical billing degrees online are accredited, but you have to make sure they’re accredited from the appropriate sources. Regional accreditation organizations are the same organizations that accredit traditional universities and colleges. These are the best online schools to obtain a degree from, primarily because your credits will transfer to another school. Medical billing is a great starting point for someone who wants to pursue an education in health administration. Working in medical billing will give you a solid starting point for working in health administration later down the road. With a bachelor’s of health administration, you can take on more responsibility and are available for jobs with higher pay. This is why looking at a school’s accreditation is so important when finding an online medical billing program.

Can I Earn a Medical Billing Degree Online?

Definitely! There are many, many options for someone exploring an online medical billing degree. Many of these programs are specifically catered for part time students who are under the stress of family life and work. Because of this the program may take longer to complete, but you’ll move at a pace that works for your lifestyle and schedule. This is very important when completing online courses. You never want to sign up for too much too soon, which is why some part time programs limit how many course you’re allowed to take. The idea is to set students up for success.

Why Should I Opt for an Online Medical Billing Degree?

Flexibility is the main reason. Many people looking to improve their career options and financial situation are limited on the amount of time they can devote to school because they have to continue with full time jobs. Online courses offer flexibility that traditional classes do not. You are able to do all of the work at home, on your own time. This is a major plus for working adults who have children to care for. A medical billing degree obtained online is viewed the same as one obtained in a traditional setting. You will not have a problem finding a job simply because you got your degree online. Think about your situation and what works best for your schedule. You can move at your own pace with an online medical billing degree.

What Do I Need to Apply for an Online Medical Billing Degree?

Some schools require a high school transcript, but some do not. You must pay for some programs up front, but others allow you to pay according to a payment plan. These rules and regulations vary from school to school. There are also online medical billing degrees offered at community colleges. Often these programs can be cheaper than other online medical billing degrees, and you’re still allowed to work at your own pace from a computer. Sit down with an academic advisor to find out the specifics of the college’s program.

What is the Most Important Thing to Look for in an Online Medical Billing Degree?

The most important things are that the school is accredited and that the program is well-established. Any online class is easier to take when the professors and instructors are well-versed in teaching an online class. This does take skill and is a different experience than the regular classroom setting. Ask your school advisor how the program works, how long it’s been around, and what the graduation rate is. This gives you an idea of how successful the program has been for students in the past. Schools with a very low retention rate for the medical billing program should be thrown out in favor of schools that have a high percentage of job placement for graduates. Schools with established medical billing programs are able to introduce students to the people they need to know to get a job upon graduation.

What Will I Do as a Medical Billing Agent?

A medical billing agent has a very important duty. He or she is responsible for every aspect of the patient file after the patient is diagnosed by doctors. Records contain a patient’s name, address, social security number, nature of illness, and the treatment plan. The doctor or medical professional in charge of the case creates a medical profile and course of action for treatment. This treatment plan is outlined in the records. From these records, a medical billing and coding agent relays the treatment plan to the insurance company via a series of codes. These codes appear on the medical claim form and are given to the insurance company. This is often done on a paper form, although some companies are converting to e-forms which are filled out electronically by a medical billing and coding agent.

This form is received by the insurance company which will deny or approve the claim. For high claims, insurance companies have their own medical reviewers who look over the claim. The medical reviewer assesses the legitimacy of the claim, the patient’s need for the procedure, and validity of the healthcare provider. If the claim is denied, the medical billing agent goes over the claim again, makes adjustments, and resubmits the claim. This can be done several times and goes on until the healthcare provider gives up or the insurance company pays the treatment in full. The rate of denied claims is high. About half of claims are denied upon first completion. There are several factors that play into this, including wrong diagnosis and treatments that are too similar to each other for one patient.

Is it Difficult to Find Work as a Medical Billing Agent?

No. The job outlook for medical billing agents is exceptionally high and should remain that way for quite some time. The medical industry is growing as baby boomers age and populations in major cities continue to expand. As long as you graduate from an accredited school and have proper certification, you should not have an issue finding work as a medical billing agent. Many medical billing agents are now working from home since much of the work is done electronically. The transfer of medical billing to e-forms and revolving around technology may also lose some long time medical billing agents who are not willing to learn new programs. The medical billing field has seen little change in the past decades, but technology has quickly changed that. With e-forms, the appropriate documents and forms can be completed by a medical billing agent and sent the exact same day. The process of denials and resubmitting a form can also be done several times in one week versus stretching over the course of months.

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