How to Avoid Fraudulent Medical Coding Training Programs

Caveat emptor is a phrase long associated with the marketplace. It means “Let the Buyer Beware” and cautions consumers against fraudulent claims and promotions found in the economy. Medical coding is not exempt from this, as there are a number of companies that promise training at bargain basement prices, but deliver little more than empty promises.

Naturally, people are drawn to programs that promise the quickest results at the lowest prices and, consequently, this is where the quacks and tricksters make their entrance. The promises given are almost standard; the opportunity to learn coding quickly, easy financing, successful completion of the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) examination, and the ability to work from home. Of course, these offers are very appealing, making it easy to understand why people fall for such gild-edged schemes. The best defense against these pie-in-the-sky offers is to do some investigation.

Tips for Researching a Prospective Program

  • Check for contact information: This includes a working phone number (hint: call and make sure someone actually answers), and a physical address of the school (the address would be a street address and not a post office box).
  • Review past complaints: Many shady for-profit schools have a history of complaints being filed against them. Checking with the local Better Business Bureau or the State Attorney General’s office of consumer fraud will uncover any record of complaints.
  • Be skeptical of unrealistic claims: Look at the offering school’s claims realistically. It takes anywhere from six to twelve months of study to become fully knowledgeable about medical coding. Any program that suggests it can prepare a person to become a coder within a couple of weeks is not being upfront at all.
  • Carefully review financing options: Financing is a frequently used lure by dishonest training companies. A prospective student should examine carefully exactly what the student loan or grant requirements are. A wise person does not sign a document that he or she does not understand. Never hesitate to ask questions or seek professional advice about any contracts or obligations.

How to Ensure Quality Training

Be assured that there are indeed many reputable medical coding programs. AAPC has a set curriculum that any educational institution wishing to be associated with them must follow. Similarly, AHIMA lists a directory of those programs that meet the Association’s demanding criteria for endorsement. Both of these groups place a high value on educational integrity, and as such, anyone seeking quality training ought to investigate if a prospective institution is affiliated with one or the other.

Final Thoughts

Many people are searching for a job that will provide employment security in these troubled economic times, and medical coding is a very appealing profession in this regard. As discussed, there are those who would take advantage of this desire and exploit a trusting person, leaving him or her bitter and a few thousand dollars poorer. The possibility of deceptive practices by unethical institutions is reason enough to take a closer look before moving forward with a program. “Let the Buyer Beware” is not a sign of paranoia; rather, it is the safest insurance against being a victim of fraud.

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