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Occupational Therapy

» Summary» Procedure Codes
» Description» Selected References
» Prior Approval» Policy History
» Policy

Medical Policy: 08.03.02 
Original Effective Date: December 2004 
Reviewed: July 2015 
Revised: March 2007 

Benefit Application
Benefit determinations are based on the applicable contract language in effect at the time the services were rendered. Exclusions, limitations or exceptions may apply. Benefits may vary based on contract, and individual member benefits must be verified. Wellmark determines medical necessity only if the benefit exists and no contract exclusions are applicable. This medical policy may not apply to FEP. Benefits are determined by the Federal Employee Program.

This Medical Policy document describes the status of medical technology at the time the document was developed. Since that time, new technology may have emerged or new medical literature may have been published. This Medical Policy will be reviewed regularly and be updated as scientific and medical literature becomes available.


Occupational therapy is defined as the care and services provided by an occupational therapist or a certified occupational therapy assistant under the direction and supervision of an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy (OT) is a form of rehabilitation therapy involving the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal and psychological dysfunction through the use of specific tasks or goal-directed activities designed to improve the functional performance of an individual. 


Occupational therapy involves cognitive, perceptual, safety and judgment evaluations and training.  These services emphasize useful and purposeful activities to improve neuromusculoskeletal functions and to provide training in activities of daily living (ADL). Activities of daily living include feeding, dressing, bathing, and other self-care activities. Other occupational therapy services include the design, fabrication, and use of orthoses, and guidance in the selection and use of adapted equipment.


Prior Approval: 


Not applicable




See also Medical Policy 01.01.20 Disposable Non-Powered Mechanical Negative Pressure Wound Care System or Single Use Non-Electrically Powered Negative Pressure Wound Care Therapy


Occupational therapy services - which are defined by Wellmark benefit language as services limited to the upper extremities (from shoulder to fingertips) only or for activities of daily living, including infant feeding programs - maybe considered medically necessary when all of the following criteria have been met:

  • Meet the functional needs of a patient who suffers from functional impairment due to disease, trauma, congenital anomaly, or prior therapeutic intervention; AND
  • Achieve a specific diagnosis-related goal for a patient who has a reasonable expectation of achieving measurable improvement in a reasonable and predictable period of time; AND
  • Provide specific, effective, and reasonable treatment for the patient's diagnosis and functional condition; AND
  • Will be delivered by a qualified provider of occupational therapy services. A qualified provider is one who is licensed where required and performs within the scope of licensure; AND
  • Require the judgment, knowledge, and skills of a qualified provider of occupational therapy services, for education and training  due to the complexity and sophistication of the therapy and the functional condition of the patient; AND
  • Are consistent with the current edition of the Physical Medicine Guidelines  (748 KB) published by Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota.


Occupational therapy services are not a covered benefit under any of the following circumstances:

  • If the service is excluded from the subscriber benefit certificate;
  • The services are determined to be not medically necessary;
  • If the service is considered investigational or experimental.  A service is considered investigational and experimental when the service, procedure, drug, or treatment has progressed to limited human application, but has not achieved recognition as being proven and effective in the clinical setting.  Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota determines whether a service is investigational or experimental based on the current scientific literature;
  • The service is duplicative of services given by the same or another provider;
  • The services are considered non-skilled and do not require the skills of an occupational therapist or certified occupational therapy assistant and therefore are not considered medically necessary; or
  • The services are considered to be a maintenance program which consists of activities that preserve the patient's present level of function and prevents regression of that function.  Maintenance begins when the therapeutic goals of a treatment plan have been achieved, or when no additional functional progress is measurable or expected to occur.



Procedure Codes and Billing Guidelines: 

  • To report provider services, use appropriate CPT* codes, Modifiers, Alpha Numeric (HCPCS level 2) codes, Revenue codes, and/or diagnosis codes.
  • Occupational therapy services are found in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation section of the AMA Current Procedural Terminology manual. Codes most commonly used to report occupational therapy services are 97003 through 97799.  Appropriate CPT codes or HCPCS codes should be accompanied by the correct revenue codes or ICD-9 diagnostic codes.
  • Specific service limitations are found in Wellmark's Physical Medicine Guidelines (June 2014 edition).


Selected References: 

  • Physical Medicine Guidelines (March 2013 edition), Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Dakota.
  • Hoffmann T, Bennett S, Koh C, McKenna K. The Cochrane review of occupational therapy for cognitive impairment in stroke patients. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2011 Sep;47(3):513-9.
  • Kim SY Yoo EY Jung MY, Park SH, Park JH. A systematic review of the effects of occupational therapy for persons with dementia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Neuro Rehabilitaiton. 2012 Jan 1;(2):107-15. 
  • Brown C, Occupational therapy practice guidelines for adults with serious mental illness. Betheds, MD American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA); 2012


Policy History: 


Date                                        Reason                               Action

December 2010                      Annual review                     Policy renewed

November 2011                      Annual review                     Policy renewed

October 2012                         Annual review                     Policy renewed

September 2013                     Annual review                     Policy renewed

August 2014                          Annual review                     Policy renewed

July 2015                              Annual review                     Policy renewed


Wellmark medical policies address the complex issue of technology assessment of new and emerging treatments, devices, drugs, etc.   They are developed to assist in administering plan benefits and constitute neither offers of coverage nor medical advice. Wellmark medical policies contain only a partial, general description of plan or program benefits and do not constitute a contract. Wellmark does not provide health care services and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes. Participating providers are independent contractors in private practice and are neither employees nor agents of Wellmark or its affiliates. Treating providers are solely responsible for medical advice and treatment of members. Our medical policies may be updated and therefore are subject to change without notice.

*Current Procedural Terminology © 2012 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

Contact Information
New information or technology that would be relevant for Wellmark to consider when this policy is next reviewed may be submitted to:
  Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  Medical Policy Analyst
  P.O. Box 9232
  Des Moines, IA 50306-9232
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