The career counselor at school talked with us about choices of colleges and trade schools. She mentioned that MTTI offers a Medical Billing and Coding program; I was pretty sure that this was the program I wanted.
I worked in pizza places and restaurants to make a living, until I felt I was in a good place to go to school. At times I enjoyed working in food service; I liked it best when the restaurant was very busy. But I wanted to build a career for my future.
Fortunately, I have a good support system. My boyfriend, Nick, agreed to provide for me financially while I attended school. Feeling secure that I wasn’t going to have to work during those seven months, I was confident I would be able to focus my energy and efforts on school.
When I toured the school, I first visited the medical assistant classroom and lab. Something inside kept telling me to choose medical billing and coding, as I had originally planned. I discussed it with Nick, and he agreed that the program would probably be a better fit for me.
Working in restaurants, I sometimes enjoying feeling like I was helping people—depending on the attitude of the customers I was serving. But I wasn’t that interested in working closely with patients in a medical setting. I preferred to be working behind the scenes.
When I took computer tech classes in high school; I discovered that I was very tech savvy. I just wasn’t drawn to training for a technology career. And I’m not especially good at managing finances or budgeting money—I can’t balance my check book!
Ten years in food service had shown me that I have a lot of qualities that medical billers / coders need, including great customer service skills and the ability to work well under pressure. I’m organized and attentive to detail, and have good computer skills. My superpower is that I am really good at problem solving.
Once I made the decision to go back to school, it all happened so fast. I was nervous, but also confident that I would do well. I was excited to go to class every day. We started by learning about insurance. It was short and sweet—only two weeks, and then we moved on to billing and coding, which really interested me.
I am thankful I was in her class. We ‘clicked’ well. If I had been in another instructor’s class, it probably wouldn’t have worked out as well for me. She’s supportive, caring, and understanding. My classmates were awesome, too. Everyone got along well. We all helped each other. There wasn’t any drama in the class, which is important to me.
She’s been working in the medical billing and coding industry—and teaching—for a very long time. Ms. Roc was clear about what the industry is like and how working would be different compared with going to school. Hearing her personal stories about the real-life situations she has experienced helped prepare us for anything we might encounter in a medical billing or coding position.
She believes, and I agree, that when you are trying to write everything down while someone is talking, you are not really listening—and so you are not really learning. She asks students to listen first—and then take notes from the PowerPoint, and other information she provides. By sorting through the information after she talked about it, I could organize my notes in a way that made it easy to for me to study from them. All the information is there; if you need additional resources, Ms. Roc will provide them. I still have the majority of her PowerPoint presentations, just in case I need to refer to them.
My biggest struggle was taking the medical terminology part of class. I had taken a few general studies classes at a community college shortly before attending MTTI. That gave me a feel for how it would be to be back in school. But learning medical terminology was new for me. Learning all of the specific terms for parts of the body and their proper names was difficult! I got through by doing a lot of studying; repetition of the material and rewriting my own notes.
Everything locked down and we went remote. I had an internship set up with a company in Pawtucket. Most of their staff began working remotely from home, so they weren’t able to take any interns. A student in my class had contracted with Acadia Healthcare for her internship. She recommended the company and told me that they were hiring.
Acadia knew MTTI and the quality of education that students receive in the Medical Billing and Coding program. Rebecca Adams (now Rebecca Rosemarino) was already working there. I applied and was contacted for an interview. During my interview, they asked medical billing related questions and if I understood what the job details were about. On the first day scheduled for internship, I was already hired as a Medical Billing Specialist.
Acadia Healthcare’s network of mental health and addiction treatment facilities across 40 states includes acute inpatient hospitals, residential treatment centers, specialty programs, a variety of outpatient treatment options, and medication-assisted opioid treatment clinics.1 We send out our claims for billing on a weekly basis. Then during the week, we check patient coverages to make sure no one’s coverage has been terminated. We work on denied claims and get prior authorization for patients.
We don’t have direct contact with patients; we communicate with the office managers at the clinics. Sometimes the insurance has an incorrect date of birth, or a patient’s records might be missing diagnostic codes. The office managers will talk with the patients and doctors to get the information we need to resolve billing issues.
When I first began working at Acadia during 2020, we had just contracted with Medicare. I actually got to be a part of that huge transition. In the past, Medicare didn’t pay for opioid treatments—now they do. Medicare has strict guidelines we have to follow, so it is important to know how to find the right information. It helps that Ms. Roc taught us where to look for information and how to build our resources.
Some medical billers or coders choose to be home-based while working for billing organizations or even hospitals. But after having worked from home for two weeks at a time during the pandemic, I recognize I don’t really enjoy it. Working at home is lonely. I’d rather be in the office with my coworkers. I like to be able to discuss things and figure things out together.
I found that I excelled at my job and enjoyed doing it. My first promotion came after I had only been there about 14 months. I began thinking, ‘I’m not going to go anywhere’. A year-and-a half later, I’m actually in training to become a billing manager. I will be running my own team and training new hires. I’ll continue to do the same billing operations I have been doing; I’ll just be solving bigger problems.
Whether you pass the AAPC coding exam or not, you still get your Medical Billing & Coding / Office Administration Certification. But there is nothing like the feeling you get when you pass that test! It’s not an easy test. The first time I took it, I failed by 1 point. I was stalking the results page on the AAPC website, checking every three hours. At 4:00 in the morning, when I found out I had failed by a point—I was flipping out! I should’ve just stayed asleep and checked in the morning. The second time I took the test, I passed. In another few months, after documenting a year’s related work, I will move from “Apprentice” status, to be a fully Certified Professional Coder.
Together with Ms. Roc, we followed COVID protocols—wearing masks and observing social distancing. Family members weren’t able to attend, so my boyfriend, Nick could not be with me. Unlike pre-COVID MTTI graduations, he missed hearing the praise from MTTI staff members, who traditionally thank family and friends for their support. When I returned home, Nick got to hang my diploma on the wall. He is proud of my accomplishments, and I will always be thankful for the great gift he gave by supporting me.
While the rewards are different compared with a career providing patient care, I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when the denials I have worked on get paid on appeal. It’s a great career for someone, who like me, has strong organizational skills, is detail oriented, able to multi-task and likes to solve problems. Depending on who you work for, there’s potential for lots of growth. And it’s definitely something that, if you like the work, you can do for the rest of your life.
I enjoy everything I do at Acadia Healthcare. I enjoy the people I work with. I enjoy my work environment. I really enjoy problem solving and resolving billing issues. I definitely feel I am working at a place where I can stay and grow.
Getting a job is not so easy, especially when someone doesn’t have good interview skills. Shawn, the Career Services Specialist for the program, helped prepare us for interviews by having us do multiple mock interviews before we met with employers. I still get his emails about open positions, even after graduating and getting hired. If I ever have a situation where I need to find another job, I know I will get help from the school—that is awesome! I highly recommend MTTI to further your education.