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Clinical Policy Bulletin:
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.

CPT Codes / HCPCS Codes / ICD-9 Codes
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 Developmental testing, (includes assessment of motor, language, social, adaptive and/or cognitive functioning by standardized developmental instruments) with interpretation and report
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

The above policy is based on the following references:
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children with Disabilities. The pediatrician's role in the development and implementation of Individual Education Plan (IEP) and/or an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). Pediatrics. 1999;104(1 Pt 1):124-127.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children with Disabilities. The role of the pediatrician in prescribing therapy services for children with motor disabilities. Pediatrics. 1996;98(2 Pt 1):308-310.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children with Disabilities. Pediatric services for infants and children with special health care needs Pediatrics. 1993;92(1):163-165.
  4. Hollomon HA, Scott KG. Influence of birth weight on educational outcomes at age 9: The Miami site of the Infant Health and Development Program. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1998;19(6):404-410.
  5. Salokorpi T, Sajaniemi N, Rajantie I, et al. Neurodevelopment until the adjusted age of 2 years in extremely low birth weight infants after early intervention - A case control study. Pediatr Rehab. 1998;2(4):157-163.
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  7. McCarton CM, Brooks-Gunn J, Wallace IF, et al. Results at age 8 of early intervention for low-birth-weight premature infants. The Infant Health and Development Program. JAMA. 1997;277(2):126-132.
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  18. Ramey CT, Yeates KO, Short EJ. The plasticity of intellectual development: Insights from preventive intervention. Child Dev. 1984;55(5):1913-1925.
  19. Diggle T, McConachie HR, Randle VRL. Parent-mediated early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(2):CD003496.
  20. Mitchell JT. Characteristics of successful early intervention programs. Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2004;6(4):175-184.
  21. Blauw-Hospers CH, Hadders-Algra M. A systematic review of the effects of early intervention on motor development. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2005;47(6):421-432.
  22. Hyde ML. Newborn hearing screening programs: Overview. J Otolaryngol. 2005;34 Suppl 2:S70-S78.
  23. Yu JW, Buka SL, McCormick MC, et al. Behavioral problems and the effects of early intervention on eight-year-old children with learning disabilities. Matern Child Health J. 2006;10(4):329-338.
  24. Gianni ML, Picciolini O, Ravasi M, et al. The effects of an early developmental mother-child intervention program on neurodevelopment outcome in very low birth weight infants: A pilot study. Early Hum Dev. 2006;82(10):691-695.
  25. Keshavan MS, Amirsadri A. Early intervention in schizophrenia: Current and future perspectives. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2007;9(4):325-328.
  26. Neil AL, Christensen H. Australian school-based prevention and early intervention programs for anxiety and depression: A systematic review. Med J Aust. 2007;186(6):305-308.
  27. Spittle AJ, Orton J, Doyle LW, Boyd R. Early developmental intervention programs post hospital discharge to prevent motor and cognitive impairments in preterm infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007;(2):CD005495. 
  28. McConachie H, Diggle T. Parent implemented early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. J Eval Clin Pract. 2007;13(1):120-129.
  29. Neil AL, Christensen H. Efficacy and effectiveness of school-based prevention and early intervention programs for anxiety. Clin Psychol Rev. 2009;29(3):208-215.
  30. Calear AL, Christensen H. Systematic review of school-based prevention and early intervention programs for depression. J Adolesc. 2010;33(3):429-438.
  31. Bayer JK, Rapee RM, Hiscock H, et al. The Cool Little Kids randomised controlled trial: Population-level early prevention for anxiety disorders. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:11.
  32. Fernell E, Hedvall Å, Westerlund J, et al. Early intervention in 208 Swedish preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder. A prospective naturalistic study. Res Dev Disabil. 2011;32(6):2092-2101.
  33. Nordhov SM, Rønning JA, Ulvund SE, et al. Early intervention improves behavioral outcomes for preterm infants: Randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2012;129(1):e9-e16.
  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.
  35. Freitag CM, Feineis-Matthews S, Valerian J, et al. The Frankfurt early intervention program FFIP for preschool aged children with autism spectrum disorder: A pilot study. J Neural Transm. 2012;119(9):1011-1021.
  36. Eapen V, Rn Ec R, Walter A. Clinical outcomes of an early intervention program for preschool children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in a community group setting. BMC Pediatr. 2013;13(1):3.

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Copyright Aetna Inc. All rights reserved. Clinical Policy Bulletins are developed by Aetna to assist in administering plan benefits and constitute neither offers of coverage nor medical advice. This Clinical Policy Bulletin contains only a partial, general description of plan or program benefits and does not constitute a contract. Aetna 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 Aetna or its affiliates. Treating providers are solely responsible for medical advice and treatment of members. This Clinical Policy Bulletin may be updated and therefore is subject to change.
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