Medical Policy: 10.01.02 

Original Effective Date: January 1994 

Reviewed: May 2018 

Revised: May 2017 


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.



The definition of reconstructive services may be based upon the etiology of the defect and whether the service is primarily indicated to improve or correct a functional impairment as the result of an illness, injury or birth defect or it is primarily to improve appearance. Cosmetic services are usually considered to be those that primarily improve or alter an individual's appearance, self-esteem, where functional impairment is not present and that otherwise do not meet the definition of reconstructive or whose etiology is exempted from the definition of cosmetic. The presence or absence of a functional impairment is a critical point in interpreting coverage eligibility.


Prior Approval:

Not applicable



Determination of whether a proposed service would be considered reconstructive or cosmetic is interpreted in the context of the specific contract language. A service would be considered to be cosmetic in the absence of a functional impairment. Functional impairment could be defined as:

  • a loss of functional capacity (Functional capacity is the ability or capability of an organ or system to perform its specified function)
  • difficulties that substantially interfere with or limit role functioning in one or more major life activities including the following:
    • Basic daily living skills (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing);
    • Instrumental living skills (e.g., maintaining a household, managing money, getting around the community, taking prescribed medication); and
    • Functioning in social, family, and vocational/educational contexts


Services considered cosmetic and excluded from coverage, include, but are not limited to:

  • Complications of a non-covered cosmetic or reconstructive surgery
  • Ear or body piercing
  • Liposuction
  • Lipectomy
  • Excision or correction of glabella frown lines
  • Tattoo removal
  • Spider telangiectasia of the lower extremities
  • Otoplasty
  • Surgical removal or reformation of redundant skin and/or adipose tissue
  • Breast augmentation except when provided in association with post-mastectomy reconstruction, see Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 below
  • Rhytidectomy of face for aging skin, neck tuck or lift
  • Buttock lift or augmentation
  • Laser skin resurfacing – uses include but are not limited to acne scarring, age spots/brown spots, melasma (brown to gray-brown patches on the face), rosacea and wrinkles
  • Laser treatment for rosacea – uses include but are not limited to eliminating erythema (reddening of the skin) and other cosmetic effects of rosacea


Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998

In accordance with the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, in patients with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer, all reconstruction of the breast on which a mastectomy was performed, surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to produce a symmetrical appearance, prostheses and treatment of complications of the mastectomy, including lymphedema are considered medically necessary and not subject to prior approval. This mandate includes breast disease beyond cancer that medically requires mastectomy for treatment and/or reconstruction (e.g., severe fibrocystic breast disease).


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.


Selected References:

  • Administrative determinations based on contract benefits.


Policy History:

  • May 2018 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • May 2017 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • June 2016 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • August 2015 - Annual Review, Policy Revised
  • January 2015 - Interim Review, Policy Revised
  • September 2014 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • October 2013 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • November 2012 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • November 2011 - Annual Review, Policy Renewed
  • May 2011 - Interim Review, Policy Renewed
  • October 2010 - 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.