Medical Policy: 08.03.05 

Original Effective Date: June 2004 

Reviewed: March 2019 

Revised: March 2019 



This policy contains information which is clinical in nature. The policy is not medical advice. The information in this policy is used by Wellmark to make determinations whether medical treatment is covered under the terms of a Wellmark member's health benefit plan. Physicians and other health care providers are responsible for medical advice and treatment. If you have specific health care needs, you should consult an appropriate health care professional. If you would like to request an accessible version of this document, please contact customer service at 800-524-9242.


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.



Speech therapy involves the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of communication impairments and swallowing disorders. Speech-language pathologists (sometimes informally referred to as speech therapists) evaluate and treat disorders and impairments resulting from illness, trauma, disease, or congenital anomaly including: speech articulation, apraxia, and phonological disorders; voice disorders; oral pharyngeal dysfunction and related disorders; and cognitive, language, and communication disorders.


The speech therapy services provided are intended to cover only episodes of therapy for situations where there must be a reasonable expectation that a patient’s condition will improve significantly in a reasonable and generally predictable period of time.


The use of devices such as iPads, computers, etc. not manufactured specifically for the use of speech and language therapy would not be considered a payable benefit. This would include tablets/devices that have the ability to become non-dedicated speech and language devices after purchase.


Speech therapy utilizing applications or non-payable tablets/computer devices would follow the criteria below to determine if therapy is medically necessary.


Prior Approval:

Prior approval is required.



Not a Covered Benefit

Speech therapy is considered not a covered benefit in the following scenarios:

  • When speech therapy services are not provided by a licensed or certified speech pathologist
  • Speech therapy to treat certain developmental, learning, or communication disorders, including dysfluency not related to a specific injury, illness, or impairment that involves the mechanics of phonation, articulation, or swallowing. (e.g. stammering and stuttering).


Speech therapy services may be considered medically necessary when they are related to a specific injury, illness, impairment, or disease and involve the mechanics of phonation, articulation or deglutition (swallowing) and meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are performed to meet the functional needs of a patient who has a physical disability or a communication disability or swallowing disorder due to illness, disease, injury, congenital anomaly, or prior therapeutic intervention.
  • Are performed to meet a specific diagnosis-related goal for a patient who has the potential to achieve measurable improvement in a generally predictable period of time.
  • Require the judgment, knowledge, and skills of a qualified provider of speech therapy services, i.e. speech pathologist, speech-language pathologist, or speech clinician because of the complexity and sophistication of the therapy and the physical condition of the patient.


Indications for which speech therapy services may be considered medically necessary include, but may not be limited to:

  • Brain injury or insult due to cerebrovascular accident or trauma
  • Structural anomalies related to cleft palate and cleft lip
  • Neuromuscular disorders such as cerebral palsy
  • Dysphagia
  • Pervasive developmental disorders including but not limited to:
    • Autism spectrum disorders
    • Asperger syndrome
    • Childhood disintegrative disorder (also known as Heller syndrome)
    • Rett syndrome
  • Speech therapy for developmental disorders must require the need of a therapist. For example: Word drills, work on communication boards, interaction with electronic communication boards/tablets or applications, and work on behavioral issues surrounding speech would not be a specialized need for therapy. Through therapy there must be achievement of goals that are unachievable through the use of home drills. If the therapy can be performed at home, without a therapist then there is not a medical necessity for formalized speech therapy.
  • Paradoxical vocal cord disorder
  • Vocal cord nodules
  • Sensorineural hearing loss
  • Dysfunction occurring as a result of a therapeutic process such as vocal cord surgery, laryngectomy, radiation therapy, or ototoxic medication
  • Developmental Apraxia of Speech (oral motor apraxia)


There should be the expectation by the provider that there will be significant improvement with 6 months of speech therapy. This shall be reflected in goals and treatment plan.


Note: Prior Approval is not needed for the initial speech therapist’s evaluation.



Documentation Required for Prior Approval

Minimum acceptable documentation, in the form of a speech language evaluation with short and long-term goals, will include the following:

  • Results from standardized testing that measures overall receptive and expressive language, using standard scores or age equivalencies for pediatric assessments and determinations of deficits in adult assessments as applicable.
  • Results from standardized testing that measures articulation, using standard scores or age equivalencies and including a description of any noticeable error patterns and a description of stimulability for correct production of error sounds.
  • Language sample including a Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) and a description of the types of words used by the patient in conversational language. For patients with Developmental Apraxia of Speech (oral motor apraxia), also include results from diadochokinetic testing (maximum repetition test) and oral motor examination (including ROM, strength, impaired coordination, groping and oral management of food).


If there is an inability to use standardized testing: there is an expectation that the use of non-standardized testing that can evaluate normative development status and a description of functional receptive and expressive language skills are utilized to demonstrate medical necessity of therapy.


Children older than two years must show a minimum of 12 months difference between their chronological age and their age equivalency on standardized tests in any one language area, or the standard score must fall at least one standard deviation below the normal range as designated by the standardized instrument utilized.


Language tests that measure only a specific area, such as receptive vocabulary may be included but only as an additional measure to quantify areas of strength and weakness.


Progress Reports

In order to reflect that continued services are medically necessary, intermittent progress reports (at a minimum the below information should be included with each request for continued therapy) must demonstrate that the individual is making functional progress. Progress reports should meet the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) standards, which include at a minimum:

  • Start of care date;
  • Time period covered by the report;
  • Communication/swallowing diagnosis;
  • Statement of the individual's functional communication/swallowing at the beginning of the progress report period;
  • Statement of the individual's current status as compared to evaluation baseline data and the prior progress reports, including objective measures of member communication/swallowing performance in functional terms that relate to the treatment goals;
  • Changes in prognosis and why;
  • Changes in plan of care and why;
  • Changes in goals and why;
  • Consultations with other professionals or coordination of services, if applicable;
  • Completion of annual standardized testing should correlate to current goals (i.e. If the plan of care includes goals for articulation, standardized testing results for articulation would be expected)


When Speech Therapy is Considered Not Medically Necessary

Speech therapy is considered not medically necessary for the following conditions or circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • When speech therapy is not focused on speech (i.e. the improvement of writing skills)
  • For developmental articulation errors that are self-correcting, such as:
    • Language therapy for young children with natural dysfluency; or
    • Developmental articulation errors that are self-correcting
  • Treatment of voice and speech training for individuals with gender dysphoria
  • As a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, chronic disorders of memory and/or orientation
  • As a treatment for psychoneurotic or psychotic conditions
  • As a treatment for functional dysphonia not related to an underlying medical condition
  • As a treatment of tongue thrust, snoring ect. (using myofunctional therapy) not related to speech difficulties
  • Social communication impairments not related to an underlying medical condition
  • When the only goal of treatment is instruction of others, professional or non-professional, in the patient’s speech therapy program
  • Collaboration with other professionals or with other community resources
  • As instruction in English phrases when the patient’s primary language is other than English
  • When no further functional progress is supported by treatment notes or when therapy progress has plateaued. The treatment plan and notes must support the continued improvement of attaining the specified speech therapy goals.
  • Duplicate therapy when the patient is receiving both speech and occupational therapy; these therapies should provide different treatments and not duplicate the same treatment.
  • Services that do not require the skills of a qualified provider of SLP services including, but not limited to, the following:
    1. Treatments that maintain function using routine, repetitious, or reinforced procedures that are neither diagnostic nor therapeutic (for example, practicing word drills for developmental articulation errors);
    2. Procedures that may be carried out effectively by the individual, family, or caregivers.


Speech therapy services must achieve a specific diagnosis-related goal for a person who has a reasonable expectation of achieving measurable improvement in a reasonable and predictable period of time. These services must also provide specific, effective, and reasonable treatment for the patient's diagnosis and physical condition.


Maintenance Therapy is considered not medically necessary

Maintenance therapy programs including drills, techniques, and exercises that preserve the present level of function and prevent regression of function. Maintenance begins when the therapeutic goals of a treatment plan have been achieved, and no additional goals are thought to be attainable. The treatment goals and subsequent documentation of treatment results should specifically demonstrate that speech therapy services are contributing to such improvement.


Speech therapy for delays not related to injury or illness in speech development is considered investigational for infants and children younger than 12 months of age. Delays not related to injury or illness in speech development cannot be reliably diagnosed or treated in the prelingual developmental stage.


The following treatment modalities have not been shown to be effective to the requisite degree of scientific validity and are considered investigational for treatment of dysphagia:

  • Deep Pharyngeal Neuromuscular Therapy (DPNS)
  • Vita-Stim and similar non-specific electrical stimulation methods
  • Melodic Intonation therapy
  • Any therapy involving digital stimulation of the mouth, tongue or pharynx in patient not having a specifically diagnosed neuromuscular disorder specifically and adversely effecting swallowing.


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.

  • 92507 Treatment of speech, language, voice, communication, and/or auditory processing disorder individual
  • 92508 Treatment of speech, language, voice, communication, and/or auditory processing disorder group, two or more individuals
  • S9152 Speech therapy, re-evaluation


Selected References:

  • Shriberg LD, Friel-Patti S, Flipsen P Jr., Brown RL. Otitis media, fluctuant hearing loss, and speech-language outcomes: a preliminary structural equation model. J Speech Lang Hearing Res 2000 Feb;43(1):100-20.
  • McCormick DP, Baldwin CD, Klecan-Akar JS, Swank PR, Johnson DL. Association of early bilateral middle ear effusion with language at age 5 years. Ambul Pediatr. 2001 Mar-Apr;1(2):87-89.
  • Johnson DL, Swank PR, Owen MJ, Baldwin CD, Howie VM, McCormick DP. Effects of early middle ear effusion on child intelligence at three, five, and seven years of age. J Pediatr. Psychol. 2000 Jan-Feb;25(1):5-13.
  • Abraham SS, Wallace IF, Gravel JS. Early otitis media and phonological development at age 2 years. Laryngoscope. 1996 Jun;106(6):727-32.
  • Paradise JL, Dollaghan CA, Campbell TF, et al. Otitis media and tympanostomy tube insertion during the first three years of life: developmental outcomes at the age of four years. Pediatrics. 2003 Aud;112(2):265-77.
  • Hyter Y, Henry J, Atchison B, SLoane M, Black-Pond C. Children affected by trauma and alcohol exposure: A profile of the Southwestern Michigan Children's Trauma Assessment Center. The ASHA Leader, 2003 Nov:6-7,14.
  • Robey RR. The efficacy of treatment for aphasic persons: a meta-analysis. Brain and Language 1994; 46:582-608.
  • Morris H, Ozanne A. Phonetic, phonological, and language skills of children with a cleft palate. Cleft Palate Craniofac J. 2003 Sep;40(5):460-70.
  • Goorhuis-Brouwer SM, Knijff WA. Language disorders in young children: when is speech therapy recommended? Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2003 May; 67(5):525-9.
  • Law J, Garrett A, Nye C. Speech and language therapy interventions for children with primary speech and language delay and disorder. Cochrane Database Rev. 2003;(3):CD004110.
  • Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR). Criteria for determining disability in speech-language disorders. Updated 2004 Aug. Available at URL address:
  • American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association. Parameters for evaluation and treatment ofpatients with cleft lip/palate or other craniofacial anomalies. Chapel Hill (NC): American CleftPalate-Craniofacial Association; 2000 Apr.Reviewed2005.
  • Kelly H, Brady MC, Enderby P. Speech and language therapy for aphasia following stroke. Cochrane Data base Syst Rev. 2010 May 12; 5: CD000425.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Typical speech and language development.
  • National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities Speech and language impairments.
  • C. H. Yang, P. H. Chang, K. L. Lin and K. S. Cheng, "Outcomes comparison between smartphone based self-learning and traditional speech therapy for naming practice," 2016 International Conference on System Science and Engineering (ICSSE), Puli, 2016, pp. 1-4.
    doi: 10.1109/ICSSE.2016.7551624
  • Law, J., Dennis, J. Speech and language therapy interventions for children with primary speech and/or language disorders.  Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2017 (1) DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012490.
  • Morgan A, Ttofari Eecen K, Pezic A, et al. Who to Refer for Speech Therapy at 4 Years of Age Versus Who to "Watch and Wait"? J Pediatr 2017; 185:200.
  • Efstratiadou, E. A., Papathanasiou, I., et al. (2018). Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 1-18. Epub ahead of print retrieved April 27, 2018 
  • Figueiredo IC, Vendramini SHF, Lourenção LG, Sasaki NSGMDS, Maniglia JV, Padovani Junior JA, Raposo LS, Santos MLSG. Profile and speech-language rehabilitation of patients with laryngeal cancer. Codas. 2019 Mar 7;31(1)
  • Pennington L, Stamp E, Smith J, Kelly H, Parker N, Stockwell K, Aluko P, Othman M, Brittain K, Vale L. Internet delivery of intensive speech and language therapy for children with cerebral palsy: a pilot randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open. 2019 Jan 30;9(1):e024233. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024233.
  • Stahl B, Mohr B, Büscher V, Dreyer FR, Lucchese G, Pulvermüller F. Efficacy of intensive aphasia therapy in patients with chronic stroke: a randomised controlled trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2018 Jun;89(6):586-592. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2017-315962. Epub 2017 Dec 22.


Policy History:

  • March 2019 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • March 2018 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • March 2017 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • July 2016 - Interim Review, Policy Revised
  • March 2016 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • March 2015 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • March 2014 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • April 2013 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • August 2012 - Interim Review, Policy Revised
  • April 2012 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • June 2011 - 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.


*CPT® is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.