Prior authorizations, Preferred Care Network - 2022 UnitedHealthcare Administrative Guide

Preferred Care Network does not require prior authorization for certain services. Use the Enterprise Prior Authorization List (EPAL) to see what services do require authorization on > Plan Requirements for Advance Notification/Prior Authorization > under Plan Requirements and Procedure Codes > Preferred Care Network and Preferred Care Partners Prior Authorization Requirements.

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Prior authorization requests for Preferred Care Network members assigned to a PCP belonging to Preferred Care Partners Medical Group (PCPMG) can be done online at

  • You are responsible for getting prior authorization for all services requiring authorization before the services are scheduled or rendered.
  • Submit prior authorization for outpatient services or planned inpatient admissions, including skilled nursing facilities (SNF), acute inpatient rehab (AIR) and long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) admissions, as far in advance of the planned service as possible to allow for review. You are required to submit prior authorizations at least 7 calendar days prior to the planned date of service.
  • Prior authorizations for home health and home infusion services, durable medical equipment and medical supply items should be submitted to MedCare Home Health at 1-305-883-2940 and Infusion/DME at 1-800-819-0751.

Note: Request an expedited (72 hours) review if waiting for a standard (14 calendar days) review could place the member’s life, health or ability to regain maximum function in serious jeopardy. If the situation meets this definition, request a prior authorization be expedited by placing ‘STAT’ or ‘urgent’ on the Prior Authorization Form.

  • Prior authorizations are required for referrals to out-of-network providers when the member requires a necessary service that is not within the Preferred Care Network. The referring physician must submit a completed prior authorization form for approval.
  • It is important you and the member are fully aware of coverage decisions before you render services.
  • If you provide the service before a coverage decision is rendered, and we determine the service was not a covered benefit, we may deny the claim and you must not bill the member. Without a coverage determination, a member does not have the information needed to make an informed decision about receiving and paying for services.

Prior to doing an inpatient or ambulatory outpatient service requiring prior authorization, the facility must confirm the coverage approval is on file. This promotes conversations between the facility and the member about the cost for the procedure.

  • Facilities are responsible for admission notification for inpatient services even if the coverage approval is on file.
  • If a member is admitted through the emergency room, notification is required no later than 24 hours from the time the member is admitted for purposes of concurrent review and follow-up care.
  • If a member receives urgent care services, you must notify us within 48 hours of the services being rendered.

Facilities are responsible for admission notification for the following inpatient admissions, even if advance notification was provided by the physician and coverage approval is on file:

  • Planned elective admissions for acute care
  • Unplanned admissions for acute care
  • Admissions following observation
  • Admissions following outpatient surgery
  • SNF admissions
  • AIR
  • Unless otherwise indicated, admission notification must be received within 24 hours after actual weekday admission (or by 5 p.m. ET on the next business day if 24-hour notification would require notification on a weekend or federal holiday). For after- hour, weekend and federal holiday admissions, call the Utilization Management department at 1-866-273-9444 for assistance.
  • Even if the physician gave us the admission notification, the facility still needs to submit one.
  • Receipt of an admission notification does not guarantee or authorize payment. Payment of covered services depends on:
    • The member’s coverage
    • The facility being eligible for payment
    • Claim processing requirements
    • The facility’s Agreement with us
  • Admission notifications must contain:
    • Member name and member health plan ID number
    • Facility name
    • Admitting/attending physician name
    • Description for admitting diagnosis or ICD-10-CM (or its successor) diagnosis code
    • Actual admission date
    • Admission orders written by a physician
  • For emergency admissions when a member is unstable and not capable of providing coverage information, the facility should notify us as soon as the information is known and communicate the extenuating circumstances. We will not apply any notification-related reimbursement deductions.

If the requirements described are not followed, the services may be denied. The member may not be billed.

A notification or prior authorization approval does not ensure or authorize payment, subject to state rules and MA policies. Payment depends on the member’s coverage, the health care provider’s eligibility and Agreement and claim requirements.

  • Online:
  • Phone: If you do not have electronic access, call the number on the back of the members’ health plan ID card.
  • Member information: Name, date of birth, and membership ID number
  • Requesting health care provider information: Name, specialty, designate par or non-par, address and phone and fax numbers
  • PCP information, if different from the requesting health care provider: Name, phone and fax numbers
  • Referral information: Name of referral health care provider, designate par or non-par, address, phone and fax numbers
  • Diagnosis or symptoms: Include the diagnosis description and the corresponding ICD-10 code for each diagnosis to the highest specificity
  • Service(s) requested:
    • Identify each procedure, and its corresponding CPT code
    • Document any pertinent clinical summary information which would be helpful to that specialist or for the UM determination in the additional comments field
    • Enter the date of service and number of visits requested, and sign where indicated

Where a clinical coverage review is required in the member’s benefit plan, we may request additional information.

  • We may not cover certain services within an individual member’s benefit plan, regardless of whether prior authorization is required.
  • In the event of a conflict or inconsistency between applicable regulations and the advance notification requirements in this manual, we follow the notification process in accordance with applicable regulations.

We will make a determination within 14 calendar days of receipt, or within 72 hours for an expedited review.

It is important we have all necessary documentation at the time of your request to help with the decision.

Certain services require prior authorization, which results in:

  1. A request for clinical information.
  2. A clinical coverage review based on medical necessity.
  3. A coverage determination.

You must cooperate with our requests for information, documents or discussions for purposes of a clinical coverage review, including providing pertinent medical records, imaging studies and reports and appropriate assessments for determining degree of pain or functional impairment.

As a network provider, you must return calls from our UM staff or Medical Director. You must provide complete clinical information as required within the time frame specified on the outreach form.

In addition:

  • We may also use tools developed by third parties, such as the InterQual Care Guidelines, to assist us in administering health benefits and to assist clinicians in making informed decisions in many health care settings. These tools are intended to be used in connection with the independent professional medical judgment of a qualified health care provider and do not constitute the practice of medicine or medical advice.
  • For MA members, we use CMS coverage determinations, the National Coverage Determinations (NCD) and Local Coverage Determinations (LCD) to determine clinical criteria for Medicare members. There is a hierarchy used in applying clinical criteria.

We use scientifically based clinical evidence to identify safe and effective health services for members for inpatient and outpatient services. For inpatient care management (ICMs), we use evidence-based InterQual Care Guidelines. Clinical coverage decisions are based on:

  • The member’s eligibility.
  • State and federal mandates.
  • The member’s certificate of coverage, evidence of coverage or summary plan description.
  • UnitedHealthcare medical policies and medical technology assessment information.
  • CMS NCDs and LCDs, and other clinical-based literature (for Medicare and Retirement).

We base coverage determinations for health care services upon the member’s benefit documents and applicable federal requirements. Our UM staff, its delegates, and the physicians making these coverage decisions are not compensated or otherwise rewarded for issuing adverse non-coverage determinations.

Preferred Care Network and its delegates do not offer incentives to physicians to encourage underutilization of services or to encourage barriers to receiving the care and services needed.

Coverage decisions are made based on the definition of “reasonable and necessary” within Medicare coverage regulations and guidelines. We do not hire, promote or terminate physicians or other individuals based upon the likelihood or the perceived likelihood the individual will support or tend to support the denial of benefits.

We may deny a prior authorization request for several reasons:

  • Member is not eligible.
  • Service requested is not a covered benefit.
  • Member’s benefit has been exhausted.
  • Service requested is identified as not medically necessary (based upon clinical criteria guidelines).

We must notify you and the member in writing of any adverse decision (partial or complete) within applicable time frames. The notice must state the specific reasons for the decision, and reference the benefit provision and clinical review criteria used in the decision making process. We provide the clinical criteria used in the review process for making a coverage determination along with the notification of denial.

For ICM, P2P requests may come in through the P2P support team by calling 1-800-955-7615.

P2P discussions may occur at different points during case activity in accordance with time frames, once a medical director has rendered an adverse determination. A P2P reconsideration request may only occur before you file a formal appeal.

UnitedHealthcare physicians conducting clinical review determinations are available by phone to discuss medical necessity review determinations with the member’s physician requesting the service. We offer pre-denial P2P review. A clinician will contact you to initiate the P2P call. Follow the time line provided by the nurse during the call.

External agency services for members

Some members may require medical, psychological, social services or other external agencies outside the scope of their benefits (for example, from Health and Human Services or Social Services). If you encounter a member in this situation, you should either contact Network Management Services, or have the member contact our Member Services department at 1-800-407-9069 for assistance with, and referral to, appropriate external agencies.

Technology assessment coverage determination

We use the technology assessment process to evaluate new technologies and new applications of existing technologies. Technology categories include medical procedures, drugs, pharmaceuticals or devices. This information allows us to support decisions about treatments which best improve member’s health outcomes, efficiently manage utilization of health care resources, make changes in benefit coverage to keep pace with technology changes and to help ensure members have equitable access to safe and effective care. If you have any questions regarding whether a new technology or a new application of existing technologies are a covered benefit for our members, contact UM at 1-866-273-9444.

Hospitalist program for inpatient hospital admissions

The hospitalist program is a voluntary program for members. Hospitalists are physicians who specialize in the care of members in an acute inpatient setting (acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities). A hospitalist oversees the member’s inpatient admission and coordinates all inpatient care. The hospitalist is required to communicate with the member’s selected physician by providing records and information, such as the discharge summary, upon the member’s discharge from the hospital or facility.

Discharge planning is a collaborative effort between the inpatient care managers, the hospital/facility case manager, the member and the admitting physician to ensure coordination and quality of medical services through the post-discharge phase of care.

Although not required to do so, we may assist in identifying health care resources, which may be available in the member’s community following an inpatient stay.

Utilization case management nurses conduct telephone reviews to support discharge planning, with a focus on coordinating health care services prior to the discharge.

The facility or physician is required to contact us and provide clinical information to support discharge decisions under the following circumstances:

  • An extension of the approval is needed. Contact must be made prior to the expiration of the approved days.
  • The member’s discharge plan indicates transfer to an alternative level of care is appropriate.
  • The member has a complex plan of treatment that includes home health services, home infusion therapy, total parenteral nutrition or multiple or specialized durable medical equipment identified prior to discharge.
  • Addressing lifestyle-related health issues and referring to programs for weight management, nutrition, smoking cessation, exercise, diabetes education and stress management, as appropriate.
  • Helping members understand and manage their condition and its implications.
  • Education for reducing risk factors, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and adhering to treatment plans and medication regimens.