Early Intervention Programs

Number: 0444


Note: There are several states, which mandate benefits for early intervention programs.  Some specific plan sponsors may offer benefits for these services.  Coverage of component services of the intervention programs such as speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy will be extended when the child presents with an eligible condition.


An early intervention program is coordinated multi-disciplinary care that involves combinations of traditional therapies such as physical, occupational and/or speech therapy, psychological counseling for families, nursing care, and physical or social stimulation for children from infancy to 3 years of age who have developmental delays or have a high potential for developmental delay.  The duration of therapy may last for months or years depending on the deficits of the child and the needs of the family.  Clear documentation of the efficacy of these treatment programs remains to be determined.

According to the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments, federal legislation requires that each child recognized as having a disability that interferes with learning from infancy to age 3 have a written plan of service, an IFSP, (Individual Family Service Plan).  An IFSP includes specific early intervention services that the family and child will receive and a projection of their duration.  The law requires each state to create its own definition of developmental delay as a basis for determining eligibility of services.  Services are provided not only for children with developmental delays, but also for those with biological conditions that may predispose to a delay.  Additionally, states may provide services to children who may be at risk of developing developmental delays attributable to environmental factors.  All states have established early intervention programs for children from birth to 3 years.

Gonzalez and colleagues (2012) summarized the evidence published on treatments for bipolar disorder, particularly on psychological interventions in its early phases; and provided a description of the Jano Intervention and Research Program on the Early Phases of Bipolar Disorder, which is being developed at Valdecilla Hospital (Santander, Spain).  First, these investigators reviewed the data from randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews regarding 4 psychotherapies proven to be effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder: (i) psychoeducation, (ii) cognitive-behavioral therapy, (iii) family therapy and (iv) interpersonal and social rhythm therapy.  Second, they displayed a systematic review on the effectiveness of psychological therapies during the early stage of bipolar disorder.  Out of 456 studies, all were excluded due to not meeting the inclusion criteria.  Finally, these researchers outlined the Jano Program, which provides psychiatric management, psychoeducation, psychotherapy and family therapy for patients in the early stage of bipolar disorder.  Several standardized clinical, social and neuropsychological tests are administered to the patients at the beginning of the program, and also at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks, 3 and 6 months, 1, 2, 3 and 5 years later.  The authors concluded that it is necessary to enlarge the sample and finish their data collection in order to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of this kind of program, and specially of its psychological components.  They stated that early intervention for bipolar disorder may need to be adapted in some way from usual treatments to better reach their goals.

Fernell  et al (2011) evaluated autism spectrum disorders (ASD) outcome in a large naturalistic study.  A total of 208 children, aged 20 to 54 months, with a clinical diagnosis of ASD were given intervention and monitored prospectively in a naturalistic fashion over a period of 2 years.  The toddlers were considered representative of all but the most severely multiple disabled pre-school children with ASD in Stockholm county.  They fell into 3 cognitive subgroups: (i) one with learning disability, (ii) one with developmental delay, and (iii) one with normal intellectual functioning.  Data on intervention type and intensity were gathered prospectively in a systematic fashion.  Intervention was classified into intensive applied behavior analysis (ABA) and non-intensive, targeted interventions, also based on ABA principles.  Children were comprehensively assessed by a research team before the onset of intervention, and then, again, 2 years later.  Change in Vineland adaptive behavior scales (VABS) composite scores from intake (T1) to leaving the study (T2) was set as the primary outcome variable.  The research team remained blind to the type and intensity of interventions provided.  One hundred and ninety-eight (95 %) of the original samples stayed in the study throughout the whole 2-year period and 192 children had a complete Vineland composite score results both at T1 and T2.  Vineland composite scores increased over the 2-year period.  This increase was accounted for by the subgroup with normal cognitive functioning.  There was no significant difference between the intensive and non-intensive groups.  Individual variation was considerable, but no child in the study was "problem-free" at follow-up.  The authors concluded that these findings do not support that children with ASD generally benefit more from the most intensive ABA intervention programs than from less intensive interventions or targeted interventions based on ABA.

Freitag et al (2012) noted that different early intervention programs, developed predominantly in the United States, for pre-school aged children with ASD have been published.  Several systematic review articles including a German Health Technology Assessment on behavioral and skill-based early interventions in children with ASD reported insufficient evidence and a substantial problem of generalisability to the German context.  In Germany, approximately 2 to 5 hrs early intervention is supported by social services.  Here, these investigators reported the results of a 1 year pre-post pilot study on a developmentally based social pragmatic approach, the Frankfurt Early Intervention program (FFIP).  In FFIP, individual 2:1, behaviorally and developmentally based therapy with the child is combined with parent training and training of kindergarten teachers.  Treatment frequency is 2 hrs/week.  Outcome measures were the VABS II, mental age and the ADOS severity score.  Improvements after 1 year were observed for the VABS II socialization scale and the mental age quotient/IQ (medium effect sizes).  Results were comparable with several other studies with a similar or slightly higher therapeutic intensity implementing comparable or different early intervention methods or programs.  The authors concluded that compared to most high-intensity programs (30 to 40 hrs/week), lower cognitive gains were observed.  They stated that results have to be replicated and assessed by a randomized controlled study before any final conclusions can be drawn.

Eapen et al (2013) evaluated the effectiveness of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) for preschool-aged children with ASD using a predominantly group-based intervention in a community child care setting.  Participants were 26 children (21 males) with ASD with a mean age of 49.6 months.  The ESDM, a comprehensive early intervention program that integrates applied behavior analysis with developmental and relationship-based approaches, was delivered by trained therapists during the child's attendance at a child care center for preschool-aged children with ASD.  Children received 15 to 20 hours of group-based, and 1 hour of 1-to-1, ESDM intervention per week.  The average intervention period was 10 months.  Outcome measures were administered pre- and post-intervention, and comprised a developmental assessment - the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL); and two parent-report questionnaires - the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and Vineland Adaptive Behaviors Scales--Second Edition (VABS-II).  Statistically significant post-intervention improvements were found in children's performance on the visual reception, receptive language and expressive language domains of the MSEL in addition to their overall intellectual functioning, as assessed by standardized developmental quotients.  Parents reported significant increases in their child's receptive communication and motor skills on the VABS-II, and a significant decrease in autism-specific features on the SCQ.  These effects were of around medium size, and appeared to be in excess of what may have been expected due to maturation.  Nonetheless, these results need to be confirmed in a controlled study.  The authors concluded that the findings of this study suggested community dissemination of ESDM using predominantly group-based intervention may be an effective intervention.  Making ESDM accessible to the wider ASD community in child care settings has the potential for significant clinical and economic benefits.  Moreover, they stated that further studies are indicated in this area, including those with younger children, and which incorporate a control group and standardized ASD assessments.

Tonge et al (2014) reviewed recent evidence and other earlier relevant articles regarding early intervention studies for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  There is a well-established body of empirical evidence for the effectiveness of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) with young children with ASD.  The importance of parent skills training, education and positive behavior support is also a key factor in influencing outcomes.  Drug treatment is of short-term benefit for disruptive behavior but long-term outcome and metabolic side-effects have not been studied.  The authors concluded that few studies have measured the long-term value and effectiveness of early intervention treatments, and currently there are no articles published on effects into adulthood of such treatments.  Such research would indicate whether early intervention results in reduced reliance on health services into adulthood.

Rodgers and Paxton (2014) noted that depressive and eating disorder symptoms are highly co-morbid.  To date, however, little is known regarding the efficacy of existing programs in decreasing concurrent eating disorder and depressive symptoms.  These investigators conducted a systematic review of selective and indicated controlled prevention and early intervention programs that assessed both eating disorder and depressive symptoms.  They identified a total of 26 studies.  The large majority of identified interventions (92 %) were successful in decreasing eating disorder symptoms.  However fewer than half (42 %) were successful in decreasing both eating disorder and depressive symptoms.  Intervention and participant characteristics did not predict success in decreasing depressive symptoms.  The authors concluded that indicated prevention and early intervention programs targeting eating disorder symptoms are limited in their success in decreasing concurrent depressive symptoms.  They stated that further efforts to develop more efficient interventions that are successful in decreasing both eating disorder and depressive symptoms are needed.

Yavuz et al (2014) stated that obesity is a growing problem even in very young childhood, resulting in high costs for individuals and society.  As a response, numerous obesity prevention and intervention programs have been developed.  Previous research has shown that early intervention programs are more effective when parents are involved, but the effectiveness of specific aspects of programs with parental involvement has not been investigated.  This meta-analysis examined the features related to the effectiveness of different types of obesity intervention programs involving parents and targeting young children (0 to 6 years of age).  The Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo, CINAHL, and ERIC databases were searched for childhood obesity prevention and intervention programs involving parents.  Data were analyzed using the Comprehensive Meta-analysis (CMA) software.  A total of 50 studies with effect sizes measured at short-term follow-up (within 3 months from the end of the intervention) and 26 studies with effect sizes measured at long-term follow-up (all reported in a total of 49 publications) were identified.  The combined effect size of interventions was small but significant at short-term follow-up (d = 0.08, p < 0.01).  The results suggested the presence of a potential publication bias in studies providing results at long-term follow-up, with a non-significant adjusted effect size (d = 0.02), which indicated that obesity interventions were not effective at long-term follow-up.  Multi-variate meta-regression analyses showed that interventions were more effective when including either interactive sessions or educational materials as opposed to those including both interactive sessions and non-interactive educational materials.  No other moderators regarding sample characteristics, study design, or methodological quality were significant.  The authors concluded that interventions targeting young children that require parental involvement are effective at short-term follow-up, specifically when interventions include 1 mode of intervention rather than 2; however, results were not retained in the long run.

CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-10 Codes
Information in the [brackets] below has been added for clarification purposes.   Codes requiring a 7th character are represented by "+":
ICD-10 codes will become effective as of October 1, 2015:
CPT code not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
92521 Evaluation of speech fluency (eg, stuttering, cluttering)
92522 Evaluation of speech sound production (eg, articulation, phonological process, apraxia, dysarthria)
92523 Evaluation of speech sound production (eg, articulation, phonological process, apraxia, dysarthria); with evaluation of language comprehension and expression (eg, receptive and expressive language)
92524 Behavioral and qualitative analysis of voice and resonance
Other CPT codes related to the CPB:
92507 Treatment of speech, language, voice, communication, and/or auditory processing disorder; individual
92508     group, 2 or more individuals
96110 Developmental screening (eg, developmental milestone survey, speech and language delay screen), with scoring and documentation, per standardized instrument
96111     extended (includes assessment of motor, language, social, adaptive and/or cognitive functioning by standardized developmental instruments) with interpretation and report, per hour
97110 - 97546 Therapeutic procedures
99381 Initial comprehensive preventative medicine evaluation and management of an individual including an age and gender appropriate history, examination, counseling/anticipatory guidance/risk factor reduction interventions, and the ordering of appropriate immunization(s), laboratory/diagnostic procedures, new patient; infant (age younger than 1 year)
99382     early childhood (age 1 through 4 years)
99391 Periodic comprehensive preventative medicine reevaluation and management of an individual including an age and gender appropriate history, examination, counseling/anticipatory guidance/risk factor reduction interventions, and the ordering of appropriate immunization(s), laboratory/diagnostic procedures, established patient; infant (age younger than 1 year)
99392     early childhood (age 1 through 4 years)
99510 Home visit for individual, family, or marriage counseling
HCPCS codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
S0302 Completed early periodic screening diagnosis and treatment (EPSDT) service (List in addition to code for appropriate evaluation and management service
S9123 Nursing care, in the home; by registered nurse, per hour (use for general nursing care only, not to be used when CPT codes 99500-99600 can be used)
S9124 Nursing care, in the home; by licensed practical nurse, per hour
S9128 Speech therapy, in the home, per diem
S9129 Occupational therapy, in the home, per diem
S9131 Physical therapy; in the home, per diem
T1000 Private duty/independent nursing service(s)-licensed, up to 15 minutes
T1001 Nursing assessment/evaluation
T1002 RN services, up to 15 minutes
T1003 LPN/LVN services, up to 15 minutes
Other HCPCS codes related to the CPB: :
G0451 Development testing, with interpretation and report, per standardized instrument form
ICD-10 codes not covered for indications listed in the CPB:
F80.0 - F82 Specific developmental disorders
R62.0 - R62.59 Lack of expected normal physiological development in childhood
Z13.4 Encounter for screening for certain developmental disorders in childhood

The above policy is based on the following references:
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    34. Gonzalez S, Artal J, Gomez E, et al. Early intervention in bipolar disorder: The Jano program at Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla. Actas Esp Psiquiatr. 2012;40(2):51-56.
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