Prior authorization, also called prior approval, means getting permission from your child's health plan before your child uses a special service or kind of equipment. It is usually the responsibility of your child's primary care provider (PCP) or other treating provider to get prior authorization from the health plan.

Examples of services usually requiring prior authorization are:

  • Most hospital admissions
  • Medical procedures
  • (Non-emergency) surgeries
  • Some tests and consultations (such as a second opinion)
  • Durable medical equipment (DME)
  • Home health care
  • Outpatient therapies (such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy)

Medical Necessity

In some cases, your child's PCP will need to write a letter of medical necessity to the health plan. This letter states the medical reasons why your child needs a special service or equipment.

Tip: In Massachusetts, medical necessity means "health care services that are consistent with the generally accepted principles of professional medical practice as determined by whether the service:

  • Is the most appropriate available supply or level of service for the insured in question considering potential benefits and harms to the individual;
  • Is known to be effective, based on scientific evidence, professional standards and expert opinion, in improving health outcomes; or
  • For services and interventions not in widespread use, is based on scientific evidence."

(Mass Department of Public Health, Office of Patient Protection, 800-436-7757)

Different plans have different prior authorization processes. Learn about the process at your child's health plan so you will know what to do if your child needs any services that require prior authorization.

Call a Member Services Representative or your child's case manager at the plan to learn more about the prior authorization process.


This information is provided by the Division of Perinatal, Early Childhood, and Special Health Needs within the Department of Public Health.