Coding of a Different Sort: Dania Arzate Teaches the Fun and Detective Work of Medical Billing and Coding

In the computer-driven world we live in, where computer coding is building a whole new world of AI, there still is demand for humans to do the work of coding of another sort. “It’s kind of hard to explain” says Dania Arzate, faculty member in the Medical Billing and Coding blended program at the Albuquerque campus of SJVC. “Medical Billing & Coding is a Certified program for healthcare professionals responsible for: (1) translating medical diagnoses and procedures into codes used in medical records (2) processing claims submitted to payers for reimbursement, and (3) taking charge of calculating and collecting payments for health services. Our job is to make sure the translation is accurate, that the diagnoses/procedures match the code for it. There are over 70,000 procedure codes and over 69,000 diagnosis codes in 2023. Every year there is room for adding and removing codes. It is our main job to make sure claims are being submitted correctly and with 100% accuracy to ensure the reimbursement is always bringing in revenue to health services.” The work takes a certain kind of person to be curious and determined, like a detective who keeps working until the answer is clear. They must be self-motivated and believe in themselves enough that they can find the right code. Dania Arzate is a perfect example of that kind of self-discipline, determination, and ability to manage his time to have pursued his education while maintaining a healthy personal life. By sticking with it, he mastered it to the point where he was eventually given the opportunity to teach his expertise to others, both technical and personal.

Tell me about yourself.

I was born in Albuquerque. I just turned 29. My grandfather and grandmother were the first to emigrate to the US from Mexico. Their family is from the Aldama region of Chihuahua, generations back. That’s where I get my last name.

How do you pronounce it?

“Dahnia” “Arsahté”

Yes, it has a beautiful sound to it!  You have the distinction of having first studied at Carrington, and then becoming a teacher there.  Tell me about it.

I started school at another institution in 2018, but I decided to continue my studies at Carrington’s online program. I took a job at Blue Cross Blue Shield while I studied online at Carrington. The Carrington instructor at the time told me I was good enough at the work that if I had more experience, I could eventually replace her. I continued to work at BCBS for four years while studying at Carrington. Last year, around November 2022, I wanted to take a break from work to potentially pursue a higher career path with Medical Billing & Coding. Carrington has a services department; if you graduate from the institution and ever need a job, they will help you look for employment. The Career Services person advised me Carrington was hiring an instructor for MBC and it happened to be the job of my old CC instructor! I mentioned I had worked as a trainer at BCBS. I was hired in two weeks. I’ve been faculty since January 2023.

Wow, that seems like it was meant to be. Was teaching something you thought you wanted to do?

Never, to be an instructor or trainer. It just naturally happened.

So now you are an online instructor for Carrington’s MBC Hybrid program. What is a “Hybrid” program?

Hybrid means blended; it’s all online, but you must show up for a class on certain days, for example Tuesday/Thursday is what I teach. The program is close to nine months long. Carrington tuition covers the certification CBCS (Certified Biller and Coding Specialist) and gives you the opportunity to take a national certification to be a coder.

For all this determination and finding your path to success, I understand you went through some difficult times before you found your way. Can you tell me about that?

Yes. I hit rock bottom in 2017 and I was in a very bad mental state and it was really hard. I was a young adult facing financial challenges, thinking of taking a leap and moving out of state. Then I had signed up to study to be a Medical Administrative Assistant, which to me was just a temporary something to do. But that’s when I got exposed to medical billing and coding. Switching from in-person work to online was hard, working full-time and going to school too. But to be honest, I had nowhere else to go but up. I learned to believe in myself and stick to it.

What would you say are the particular skills that are best for the job?

You have to be a hard worker, but if you have the self-discipline to get it done, the curiosity to follow your ideas, are self-motivated enough to put yourself in your own leadership role, AND have empathy for the patient that’s just a diagnosis on the page, you can feel good that you helped someone by processing their case the best you can. You also need to be a good people person, to build a good rapport with the insurance companies you’re working with.

Some people think there’s a lot of math involved?

Not really; most math is quite simple, just addition and subtraction.

What do you tell your students to motivate them?

I have fantastic students, about 40 of them. I always let them know there is enough room at the top for everyone to succeed. Putting that mentality up front on day one, you should see how helpful and supportive they are with each other. They’re not competitive or bullying in any way; they are always helping others to learn from each other.

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