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Elimination of “A” Designation: The Apprentice designation is not needed anymore

  1. #131
    Location
    Hartford, CT
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    Medical Coding Books
    Quote Originally Posted by ghpkmp View Post
    Pam, you're assuming that everyone who took the CPC exam, before the AAPC added the apprentice designation somehow had more knowledge and experience. How can that be true? Some, to be sure, but, certainly, not all. The only requirement before was experience, but that could have meant sitting in a job coding the same codes day in and day out. And if you've read any of the comments here, you'd know that many people who have lots of experience coding have failed the exam!!!!!!

    Also, you seem to be under the impression that the test for CPC-A's is somehow different from the test for CPC's. Well, it's not. We all took the same test.

    Absolutely "elevate the difficulty of the CPC exam" and make everyone re-test. That would be leveling the playing field. And you'd certainly weed-out the "huge glut of inexperienced (and unemployed) would-be coders."
    Having read some of Pam's other posts, I know that she does not think the tests are different, everyone knows they're the same. What I have a problem with is people who say they had a 3.5 to 4.0 gpa in their classes but barely manage to squeak by with a 70% on the exam. This is after the AAPC made it easier to pass by making it an overall score and not requiring a 70% on EACH of the 3 sections. I'd be pretty upset with my son and his teachers if he was bringing home A's all year and then only got a 70 on his final exams. Learning should equate into knowledge about your chosen subject.

    I don't think CPC-A's should lose their credentials, they did work for them. But going forward the AAPC definitely has to elevate the standards. As someone suggested, maybe CPCs should be licensed just like plumbers or electricians. Maybe all states need to require either AAPC or AHIMA credentials for anyone who works with records. There are no easy answers, but ironically (someone posted that once you pass the bar exam you are a lawyer in comparison to CPC-As), I read in my local paper today that newly graduated law student who've passed the bar exam can't find jobs. Guess this isn't just a coder problem after all.
    Doreen Clark, CPC, CPMA
    Medical Auditing Specialist
    Integrated Physicians Management Services
    East Harftord. Ct

  2. Default Elimination of "A"
    Unfortunately, I just read this post too late. However, to me the designation of an "A" to our CPC Certification is ridiculous. I have 20+ years in the medical field and passed the exam in December with a score of 82% and I finished the exam an hour earlier. I already had one year dropped off because of my many years of proven experience. Unfortunately, I was laid off at the beginning of the year but I cannot apply for a position as a CPC-A because employers think I am not qualified even though I have been coding and since I was laid off, my previous employer cannot attest to the fact that I was coding for the company. So, now I am stuck with an "A" classification I do not deserve and it is very discouraging. I then have asked myself, "Why become certified, if I will not be recognized as a CPC?" Employers are NOT hiring CPC's unless they have 3 to 5 years of coding experience. What really upsets me is that having to take a Clinical Exam and still have to pay. Those of us that worked so hard to become certified should not have to pay for the so called Clinical Exam. I am more than willing to take such exam but would rather wait until a decision is made by the AAPC. The CPC exam in itself was really nerve racking and it covered all the necessary coding questions. Since, I was not able to respond to the cpc-acomment link in the article, I would appreciate it if someone would advise their final decision. I most certainly need to have the "A" dropped just like most of us who took the exam to better qualify ourselves in the medical/healthcare field this is why we need to keep up with the CEU's to demonstrate our knowledge. What more do they want?

  3. Default
    Quote Originally Posted by ghpkmp View Post
    What nobody seems to be addressing is the fact that the majority of coders out there do not code from EVERY specialty. My guess is that if you had every CPC (not CPC-A) have to code those 800 notes, they wouldn't succeed with the accuracy the AAPC requires. It's very unfair to expect CPC-A's to be able to do that.

    I inquired about it because I felt I'd gain valuable experience. And certainly more experience than many CPC's.
    ghpkmp,

    Maybe in order for this program to be valuable to the "new" coder looking for the experience, there shouldn't be a requirement to pass the Apprentice Virtual Program with a grade. Maybe it should just be what an apprenticeship is designed for, Experience, something to add to the resume to prove that they are willing to learn whatever specialty they may be presented with. The way I understand it, anyone who does an apprentice program, in other professions, usually does it with little, or no pay at all for this time of learning. All I am proposing is that the AAPC consider continuing on with the the program, (with some of the changes that need to be done). The coder has to pay for it, not get paid to do it, and if that is something they want to per sue to further educate themselves, and something to put on a resume, it should be available to them. This program should not be a basis for eliminating a "status" by how well they score, but a certificate of completion to show their desire to grow, and how serious they are about working in the field. I still believe it gives the coder a great, all-around, view of what they may expect in the "real world", and the types of notes they may encounter. And I feel it is alot of work, and deserves some kind of recognition-but it shouldn't be a requirement to eliminate the "A" status; maybe an option if the coder chooses to add to thier education.

    If a person passes the CPC exam, give them the CPC, minus the"A", status as a credential to build on. Then offer more specialized credentials, CPC-"x", for whichever specialty they wish to per sue, as well as offer them the Apprentice program, to further expand their education and possibly help them pick the specialty they might feel they are most interested in. I agree, most coders are not going to use every specialty, and I thought that was the idea behind having the CPC-P, CPC-H, and the various other specialty certifications. I think a potential employer can decide for themselves, based on the resume, if the coder is a fit for their company, and if they think the coder is someone they feel they can, or want, to train.

    After reading many of these posts, and posting some of my own opinions, I am now seeing the whole picture this issue has presented. I really hope the AAPC finds a resolution that everyone can accept, and one that addresses the many concerns of those in the profession, as well as those ,like myself, who are new, and would just love an opportunity to prove they are very serious about working in this profession. We are not all just looking for a quick way to get a job to be paid big money, some of us have made some very big sacrifices to per sue this, and would just love a chance to prove ourselves. I do have to admit though, I am becoming quite dissapointed that this issue is still not resolved. I have followed this post since it started, and some time before that. I am getting to a point where I may have to go find another organization, where I might be able to move forward. I really do not want to, but I have spent enough time worrying about this, there comes a point when you just have to make a decision on what you need to do. I'll keep my fingers crossed!!

  4. #134
    Location
    Dover Seacoast New Hampshire
    Posts
    1,970
    Default
    Quote Originally Posted by ghpkmp View Post
    Pam, you're assuming that everyone who took the CPC exam, before the AAPC added the apprentice designation somehow had more knowledge and experience. How can that be true? Some, to be sure, but, certainly, not all. The only requirement before was experience, but that could have meant sitting in a job coding the same codes day in and day out. And if you've read any of the comments here, you'd know that many people who have lots of experience coding have failed the exam!!!!!!

    Also, you seem to be under the impression that the test for CPC-A's is somehow different from the test for CPC's. Well, it's not. We all took the same test.

    Absolutely "elevate the difficulty of the CPC exam" and make everyone re-test. That would be leveling the playing field. And you'd certainly weed-out the "huge glut of inexperienced (and unemployed) would-be coders."
    I certainly do understand that the examination is the same for CPC-As as it would be for a CPC. And I'm not assuming that coders prior to the 'A' designation had more knowledge and experience. They absolutely did have more experience. What you may not realize is that previously, in order to sit for the CPC exam, you had to have at least 2-3 years experience in the field, as a coder/biller along with two letters of recommendation from your management or administrators (on company letterhead) that indicated you had experience and knowledge of CPT, ICD-9 and HCPCS, and were well prepared to sit for the exam. And that would mean that you had to do more than just code the same codes day in and day out, as you suggest would have been sufficient experience. Irregardless, two years experience within the revenue cycle is better than no experience that I see with a lot of coding apprentices. Someone in management had to vouch for your ability to do the work before you could even take the exam. That's because it is well recognized that coding is not an entry level job, and in order to be deemed a certified coder, you had to have that experience first. And once you had the CPC after your name, you had both the credential and the experience. It was an unfair disadvantage to allow coding students to sit, and then expect them to be able to be hired.

    I also know that people with coding experience have failed the exam. (and it makes you wonder about the vailidity of their coding to begin with). But from an employer's perspective, the only way to gauge a coders' broad knowledge and understanding of the field is to ask for credentials. We license nurses and doctors, and while they may be fabulous practitioners, without that license, they are not physicians or nurses, whether or not they "test well".

    I do read the comments (and post quite a few myself), so I understand where many of the coding apprentices are coming from. Please don't assume I'm clueless about the plight of the new coders, just because I'm telling it from the point of view of a hiring manager.
    Pam Brooks, MHA, COC, PCS, CPC, AAPC Fellow
    Coding Manager
    Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
    Dover, NH 03820

    If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney

  5. Default
    I have a Certificate as a Medical Secretary, some medical office experience, recent graduation and certificate as an HIMT Coding Specialist from my local community college and recently passed the credentialing exam and have the designation of CPC-A. I can't get my foot in the door at all in my area. I am dismayed that people are not hiring CPC-A's, as most in the past were not credentialed at all but just received on the job training and were paid. If you became a CPC or CCS or whatever after two years or more of experience in the medical administrative field who gave you that chance? Who hired you with no experience so that you could become experienced? This is the quandry, no one can afford to volunteer two years of training to a physicians office or hospital in order to gain experience. Most professionals who are required to to and internship or apprenticeship are paid while gaining the experience they need to remove the apprenticeship designation. Medical Assistants are hired right out of college or school in physicians offices, hospitals, no experience even asked for. But somehow, someone going through the schooling and credentialing process for this type of work is not considered experienced enough to do the job. As a newly credentialed coder I expect that I will have to learn alot ON THE JOB, it is a no brainer how important this is. Now you are telling me after I have paid and passed this test that unless I have the required experience before a certain date I will be required to take yet another test at my expense? And if I cannot find a job in this field, I am going to get this money where? Will it guarantee me employment with still no experience?I have not seen a job description yet that has included hiring anyone with NO experience, or entry level accepted.

  6. #136
    Location
    Charleston, South Carolina
    Posts
    641
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    pjwils15,

    I beg to differ with your comment about internships being paid. Physicians may be paid as they do their intership and residency, but most other professions are NOT paid for internships. I did a 13 week internship that was a mandatory part of my curriculum (many moons ago). Not only did I not receive pay, I had to pay for that semester of college (as it was part of my education), AND I had to support myself during that time, as my place of internship was two hours from home. (We only had three choices at that time for the internship). I worked three jobs while going to college full-time, had a car payment and supported myself, so I do understand the dilema some people have. In the long run, it was well worth the time, effort and money spent!!

    And in case you are thinking I am one example, I am not! I volunteer at a facility (not work related) and they have interns from all over the country. Those interns are there for a semester of their college program, do not get paid, and have to pay their expenses as well. Also, some trades have apprentice programs, and they may be paid, but I know of a couple people that apprenticed and they made minimum wage until their apprentice hours were completed. So while they did get paid something, it probably wasn't enough to support them, much less the family they had.

    Again, I go back to what has been commented on many times. It is up to each person to know the requirements of the program they are taking, as well as what the local area requires to get hired. Then you make an informed decision on what will or will not work for you. Its rough out there, but we are each responsible to only our self! I am extremely happy with the sacrifices I made (again, many moons ago) to get to where I am today.

    *pardon any typing errors, I was on my iphone!
    Machelle Morningstar, CPC, COC, CEMC, COSC
    AHIMA Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainer

  7. #137
    Location
    Dover Seacoast New Hampshire
    Posts
    1,970
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    None of the externships I am aware of in this area (for coders) are paid. Do any of the instructors on this board offer paid externships to their students?
    Who pays the salaries? The school or the physician?

    There definitely are entry level jobs available. I have one open now, and I had nearly 30 applicants; most of whom had their CPC-A. The ones I did not consider were excluded for reasons other than lack of experience.

    If a CPC-A applies for a job that requires 5 years experience, they are most likely going to be deemed unqualified. I have another position open for a coder that requries several years of experience, and most of the candidates have been doing this work for 10+ years. There is no way I would consider a coder right out of school for this position.

    The reason medical assistants are hired right out of school is because the work is relatively unrelated to revenue. Most physicians prefer to train their MAs "their way", and they are more comfortable supervising another clinical person. When it comes to coding and billing, physicians break out into a sweat--it's way outside their comfort zone and they typically turf that to someone else. Actually, I've worked as an MA. Coding is way, way more complicated.

    I think that you'll find that everyone who is relatively far along in their coding careers started out in very entry-level positions.
    I was hired at a mental health agency with no experience after receiving an AS in Medical Office Management to answer phones and schedule patients, and eventually post payments, because the pay was so poor and the neighborhood and clientele so sketchy, that nobody else applied for the job! That's how I got my foot in the door. More than ten years later, I was a CPC.
    Pam Brooks, MHA, COC, PCS, CPC, AAPC Fellow
    Coding Manager
    Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
    Dover, NH 03820

    If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney

  8. Default
    Ok...

    I took a one year Coding/Billing program approved by the AAPC for the CPC certification...let me rephrase that: The diploma course was geared toward the CPC certification. I took, and passed (first go) my AAPC CPC certification exam. I became a CPC-A
    Here is the AAPC's requirement for dropping the -A. (and as it was when I graduated in 2010 and as currently posted on the website) Btw, I have worked for over a year in the EHR field.

    "Apprentice Removal: On-the-Job Experience

    To remove your apprentice designation via on-the-job experience, you must obtain and submit two letters of recommendation verifying at least two years of on-the-job experience (externships accepted) using the CPT®, ICD-9-CM, or HCPCS Level II code sets. One letter must be on letterhead from your employer*, the other may be from a co-worker. Both letters are required to be signed and will need to outline your coding experience and amount of time in that capacity. Download our Apprentice Removal Template for easier submission. Letterhead and signatures are still required when using this template.

    OR

    Submit proof showing completion of at least 80 hours of coding education AND one letter, on letterhead, signed from your employer verifying one year of on-the-job experience (externships accepted) using the CPT, ICD-9-CM, or HCPCS Level II code sets.

    Send proof of education in the form of a letter from an instructor on school letterhead stating the 80 hour course has been completed, a certificate/diploma stating at least 80 contact hours, or a school transcript.
    One new requirement option now for dropping the -A designation is:
    Effective July 1, 2012, the CPC-A credential will no longer be granted. All current CPC-As would have their “A” removed by doing one of the following:
    1. Getting at least one year of on-the-job experience no later than 12/31/2013, (helpful to those with a job and currently working towards that end)
    My minimum 80 hours of coding education was counted "as" one year experience (in "lieu of" one year's experience) towards my Apprenticeship.
    That was the arrangement when I became "certified."
    So, all I need to do, after July 1st 2012, is to submit my letter from that Institution as proof of one year experience.
    Correct?
    Last edited by lincomores; 02-16-2012 at 10:12 PM.

  9. #139
    Default
    This seems very vague "on-the-job experience (externships accepted) using the CPT®, ICD-9-CM, or HCPCS Level II code sets".

    For some, this could mean just filling out billing forms checking off the same codes every day (small private practice, small specialty clinics, etc) to others who extensively work with codes by extracting them from large reports/charts of a variety of specialties (hospitals, ASCs, etc).

    However, your resume, and hopefully your interview, will display what type of "experience" you have. With that, the potential employer can decide if you have the "experience" they are looking for.

    But from reading some of these posts (here and other forums), it seems as if some employers won't even bother reading the resume if they see the scarlet "A" on it. Then it's the employer's loss and ignorance for doing that.

  10. #140
    Default
    Quote Originally Posted by lincomores View Post
    Ok...

    IMy minimum 80 hours of coding education was counted "as" one year experience (in "lieu of" one year's experience) towards my Apprenticeship.
    That was the arrangement when I became "certified."
    So, all I need to do, after July 1st 2012, is to submit my letter from that Institution as proof of one year experience.
    Correct?
    The part you quoted about what happens after July 1st is just a proposal at this time. To the best of my knowledge nothing official has been stated. Based on the comments here and elsewhere, I would be surprised if the proposal goes into effect exactly as it was outlined in the January Coding Edge.

    Even if it did, the new proposal makes no mention of substituting classroom for on the job experience, as is the case currently.
    L. Mark Kozu, COC, CPC, CCC

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