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  Public Employee Press

PEP May 2006
Table of Contents
  La Voz

Public Employee Press

New opportunity at DC 37:
Medical Billing

The second class attracted a full house of union members eager to learn the new skill of
medical billing.

Everyone has experienced that sinking feeling while looking at a medical report. Totally unfamiliar terms leap off the page, causing alarm. But not for Medical Coders. “Medical coding is the skill used in taking a diagnosis from a doctor’s report and putting it into code for insurance and payment,” said Stephen Johnson, program coordinator for the DC 37 Education Fund.

Johnson is in charge of the new program set up in October by the union’s Ed Fund in partnership with the Medgar Evers School of Continuing Education to provide training for members who want to become Medical Coders and Billers. The course includes medical records, terminology and billing; procedural terminology; and anatomy and physiology.

“This course came about because our members were asking for it, and not just those from the hospital locals,” said Johnson. “I get a lot of joy from watching the students excitement and talking with them.”

More aid, not cuts
The students’ eagerness to master the new material is infectious. Edele Paul, a Clerical Associate and member of Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549, works for the Dept. of Records. She enrolled in the first of two nine-month classes offered to members at DC 37 and taught by Medgar Evers instructors. “When I saw the opportunity, I took it,” she said. “This program is super! We get this free because we’re union members.”

Her classmate, Local 1549 member Sophia Job, works at Queens Hospital Center. Students are told that to succeed in the demanding course, they must devote several hours a week to study outside the classroom. Job is studying hard now to prepare for the New York State certification exam that will be given in August.

Instructor Earl Bills (r.) of Medgar Evers College helps class master the new medical terminology.

A second class started in February. Earl Bills, a certified medical coder, teaches both courses. “He keeps it interesting and he has a way of making the material very accessible for us,” said Alexandrina Coffiel, a Patient Care Associate and Local 420 member at Woodhull Hospital. “Every week, I share my new knowledge with my son, Dennis. I tell him all about it, and he says, ‘Way to go, Mom!’ ”

Local 1549 member Steven E. Johnson enrolled in February to prepare for the next stage of his life. “This skill will provide employment opportunities after I retire,” he explained. “I will be able to work at this from home.” A year ago, he was contemplating taking the program at Downstate Medical Center, but it cost several thousand dollars. “This program is a godsend. I feel blessed and indebted to the union,” he said.

Local 1549 member Melanie Powell gets through the tough, two-nights a week course (which is also offered on Saturdays) with help from her daughter, Eden, 15. “She is a great help with her two younger sisters,” said Ms. Powell. “They’re all very good. They know this is for Mommy. It’s not just my goal. It’s our goal!”

“I want to expand my career options,” explained Teresa Vargas, who works at the 311 Call Center. As the single mom of Justin, 5, she puts in long days. “I’m up at 4:30 a.m. It definitely takes a commitment,” she said. “I study whenever I have the chance,” — including lunch hours and days off.
“I’m very happy with DC 37 in this regard,” said Ms. Vargas. “That they offer the opportunity to study and to expand your career opportunities is surprising. I’ve spoken to people in other unions and they don’t do this.”

— Jane LaTour




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