Ok, before you even read this post, please keep in mind that this post is not about one specific coding school. There are literally hundreds of medical coding schools out there and some are undoubtedly better than others. This post is just my response to social media threads I see out there where people talk about dropping thousands of dollars on a medical coding course/school and still had no idea they needed to take a certification exam. Had no idea it would be hard to get a coding job. And who also had no idea that working from home shouldn’t just be an expectation. That is only the tip of the ice burg. It saddens me to think that coding schools do not give their students the heads-up about the real coding world. But it also bothers me that some (not all) potential coders do not research and do their homework and look around. It’s important to at least get a feel for the coding world before jumping into it. So, in case your new to the coding world, please read this list below. It might help you decide if coding is really right for you.
“School coding” is not the same as coding in real life. Let me explain. When you are in coding school, you are still just learning. You are in the process of forming the foundation for your future. It’s important that you get an overview of all the different areas of coding, and get a basic understanding. So since the goal at this point is learning how everything kind of goes together, everything will be presented to you in a way that’s clear without leaving much room for guesswork. An example would be–if you have an E/M coding question–it tells you right in the question what all the different levels are for each area. You don’t have to fill out the actual audit sheet and get the level yourself. This is okay–you are learning and it’s not expected that you can do this right off the bat. It bothers me though that coding schools don’t seem to let students know that it is not like this in real life. Don’t get me wrong–some doctors are better than others about documentation and sometimes the report is very clear and easy to understand. Other times, well, not so much.
The next thing many new coders don’t know is very similar to the last one, but has to do with insurance. Different insurances have different rules. Many coding schools do not even mention the idea of insurances. I can see why they wouldn’t. You are learning how to code and it’s probably best not to complicate things by throwing the idea of insurance and different rules into the mix. Again though, I think it would be beneficial to the student if this is at least mentioned at some point. An example off the top of my head– some insurances still use a modifier 59. Some don’t, and use the different X modifiers. Some even have rules that would sound weird to a coder. An example would be, I remember there was one particular insurance that required a 59 be added to both a 76856 and 76830 on the same claim. The CPT book would say this is a no-no, but that is how this one insurance wanted it. I’m sure there are many more examples out there. The point being though–insurances have rules. It’s not expected you know them right out of the gate, but I wish schools would tell new coders that this is actually a thing. Once you throw federal payers into this (Medicare)–they have rules too. Many insurances follow what Medicare does, but some do not. You will learn all of this on the job, but again, this is something just to be aware of.
Ok, one last thing that new coders may not realize is that working remote is not a guarantee. Many schools try to sell the idea that you can work from home from day 1 and make lots of money all while tending to other things. Sometimes these schools even have a picture of a young mom coding with her baby sitting on her lap. This makes my blood boil. Yes, some people have been fortunate enough to work from home from the beginning. Is it the norm? No. And while taking care of a baby? Definitely no. I feel like they just put pictures like that to sell you on the idea that you can stay home, raise your kids, and work at the same time. And they make it look easy. I won’t go on a tangent too much here, but I heard a saying once and it kind of stayed with me. It said, “Women are expected to work like they don’t have kids, and raise kids, like they don’t have to work.” I know there are million different situations out there, and yes, it is possible to work from home and still have kids. That’s not what this is about. I don’t like how schools set people up with the idea that it’s an expectation and everyone and anyone can do it.
Anyway, all I can say is just do your homework before getting into the field. It is a great field to be in, with many different possibilities. I absolutely love it, and I can not even see myself doing anything else. A great way to get an idea for what it is really like is by networking and talking to other coders. They can also share their experiences. It may even lead to a job offer down the line. You can go to local AAPC chapter meetings and join different coding Facebook groups out there to meet other coders.
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