November 01, 2006
Steve Verno's writes: I've been in the medical field since 1971. I started out working at a local hospital taking care of patients. I remained in the medical field for the next 21 years. I can't count how many patients I treated over the years. When I retired from clinical medicine, I went into medical administration and became an office manager at a small health clinic in Albany, New York. There I learned about CPT and ICD-9 codes. I helped develop their superbills and I interacted with patients, State regulatory authorities and insurance companies.
I left Albany in 1993 and moved to Florida to provider 24 hour a day at home medical care to an ill relative of my wife. While my wife and I did the cleaning, and cooking and taking my wife's aunt to her doctor appointments, I also did her checking account, paying her bills and managing her medical issues. One of these were her vast and many medical bills. I learned about Medicare and her secondary insurances. I paid the doctors their co-pays and deductibles.
In February 2004, I saw a small, hand-written ad on a bulletin board at our local community college. It was for a medical biller. I called and was given an interview appointment for 3pm. I found a small office with 4 people working very quietly. They asked me if I knew coding and I said no. They asked me if I knew billing and I said no. I told them of my experience at the health clinic and my wife's aunt. They also knew of my background in clinical medicine. I thanked them for their time and left. At 4pm, I received a call to report to work. My first day was stuffing statements into envelopes. Over the years, they taught me coding and medical billing. It was something I loved to do. There is a wonderful feeling when you get a denied claim paid. Eventually, I became affiliated with the Medical Association of Billers and began teaching coding and medical billing. My 16 years as an Instructor Trainer with the American Red Cross helped.
I eventually left this company and found myself on the unemployment line. I was downsized due to the company losing some practices. It wasn't easy going from interview to interview. I was told by one interviewer that I needed to know more about workers' compensation. I don't know why because I could quote the laws from memory. I eventually found myself working for 7 medical practices. I was given a lot of freedom by the owner to bring in the money owed to him. It was hard work and I ended up getting him six-figure settlements for claims going back at least four years. I also worked on negotiating with the health insurance companies to get him excellent contracts with better than average reimbursement rates.
Eventually his practices were bought up by a larger conglomerate, and I found myself on the unemployment line again. I updated my resume, scanned the newspapers and internet for job offers and went to many interviews. I marketed myself by visiting practices and doing all of the right things to try and get my foot in the door. When they saw my resume, they all said, "Oh Wow!" I had the qualifications, the training, the certification, the recommendations and everything else needed for the job, but I got the smile and the statement, "We would love to hire you but, "you're overqualified." So, for those of you who are starting out new in this business and you're worried about not having experience, it works the other way too. I seem to have too much experience. The funny thing about every interview is that money was never discussed. I was more than willing to accept what they paid. I even informed them of this.
A few months ago, I was hired by a large medical billing company. I knew the owner and the work was nice. People came to me for advice. The owner asked me to create billing manuals for the staff and any other task needed from me. Today, I have been told the company is downsizing and being new, I am on the chopping block. In 4 weeks, I will find myself on the unemployment line. It's very depressing to know that you will be out of work, but it's more depressing when you're 53 years old and no one wants to hire you, not because you don't have the training, not because you don't have the certification and not because you don't have the experience. It's because you have too much training, too many certifications and you are overqualified. So, for those of you who are new to this business, understand that you have the same chances of getting a job as a medical biller or medical coder as someone who is more qualified than you.
Even though this is depressing, I cannot allow it to overcome me. I have a family to support, bills to pay and Christmas is coming soon. For each failure we experience, we learn from it and use it to overcome our weaknesses. Our failures and disappointments become our strengths. If you want to succeed as a Medical Biller, you must never give up the quest for the job that is waiting for you. Underqualified or overqualified, it's what's in your heart and your passion to help the provider that counts. I wish all that are my brother and sister Medical Billers, success in your careers ahead of you.