Unfortunately, a number of medical coding and billing schools scams have claimed many unwitting victims who were searching for legitimate medical billing schools. Ads claiming, “Work from Home!” or “Be Your Own Boss!” or “Unlimited Earning Potential” are tempting to believe, but are often too good to be true.
Getting the facts about the medical billing and coding industry will help you separate the good programs from the medical coding and billing schools scams. For example, while it is true that certification is not necessary for employment in the medical billing and coding field, many employers will only hire employees who are credentialed. Usually the minimum amount of time needed for certification is 6-9 months, or up to two years for an Associate’s Degree. Don’t be fooled by promises of employment after only a 3-6 months, or by claims of high income potential with no experience.
Good medical coding and billing schools DO EXIST, but you must thoroughly research all programs you are considering to separate the medical coding and billing schools scams from the real deal. You can protect yourself by recognizing the following red flags:
- A school or package that requires you to pay large sums of money up front
- A school with no physical address or phone number listed
- A program that lasts less than 6-9 months
- Coursework that does not cover a broad range of topics, like ICD-9 and ICD-10 coding, anatomy and physiology, health care laws and ethics, and insurance abuse and fraud
- A program that promises a certain income level after graduation
- A program that is not certified by one of the professional organizations that offer certification
Some additional things that indicate they might be medical coding and billing schools scams which you should be wary of include:
- Ads in Magazines or Newspapers such as the Globe, Examiner, etc.
- Ads on the Internet or in Classified Section that promote “business opportunities”; these often appear next to legitimate job openings, and can be easily confused. When you call, the salesman is likely to try to sell you a “business package” that he claims has everything you need to set up your own business. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- School contracts that you must sign prior to enrollment. If you have questions about a contract or something doesn’t seem quite right, seek the advice of an attorney to avoid medical coding and billing schools scams.
So once you have avoided those red flags and are ready to investigate your real medical billing school options, how do you find a good program?
Research, Research, Research
Check with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau: some medical coding and billing schools scams pose as business opportunities and work-at-home schemes. The FTC and BBB keep records of complaints against specific medical billing schools and other entities.
Do an online search with the name of the school you are considering and the words “scam” or “complaint” to see if anything comes up. Also, find out the names of the people who are in charge of the program and do another search to see if any complaints have been lodged against them; some unscrupulous people may have had one school shut down, and reopened another with a new name.
Contact potential employers and ask them what kinds of training they expect their employees to have, and what schools they would be willing to hire from. This will also give you an insight into your local job market and what the expectations are in your area.
Get references and call them: Be sure to ask specific questions about how much hands-on training they receive, what kind of job placement assistance they have gotten, and how prepared they feel for employment. If you do not get the answers you are looking for, move on.
Visit forums that discuss medical coding and billing schools where you will get insight into the industry from people actually enrolled in specific schools. There you will be able to ask questions and also find schools that offer quality programs.
Look for Accreditation. One way to separate the truly good medical coding and billing schools are to find those which are accredited. Reputable medical billing schools are often accredited by agencies which include The Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM), The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), and The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
Following these tips will help you avoid a medical billing school scam, and get you started on a legitimate career.
If You are the Victim of a Medical Billing School Scam
First, make an effort to clear it any misunderstandings with the medical coding and billing school. If they do not cooperate or you feel they have taken advantage of you, let them know that you will be submitting a formal complaint with authorities–and then follow through with one or more of the following entities:
- The Better Business Bureau
- The Attorney General of your state or the medical billing school’s state
- The Consumer Protection Office in your state
- The Federal Trade Commission
- Your town’s Postmaster, if you received the offer in the mail
- The National Fraud Information Center if this was a “get rich quick” type of pitch.
- The website on which you found the school, so they can remove the school from their site.
Be assured that medical billing is a viable, legitimate career path. By doing your due diligence, you should be able to avoid any medical coding and billing schools scams and find the program that will enable you to reach your educational and employment goals.