Blue Shield has an established utilization management (UM) program to help ensure that our members receive quality health care. The UM program looks at the healthcare services provided to our members and evaluates whether they are medically necessary, timely, and in keeping with both Blue Shield established guidelines and community standards. This program is structured around the belief that medical decisions should be made by qualified individuals using nationally recognized clinical criteria. 

Our UM decisions are made by qualified medical staff and are based only on appropriateness of care and service, and existence of coverage (i.e., medical necessity within contracted benefits). Blue Shield does not specifically reward practitioners or other individuals (e.g., medical groups or doctors’ employees) for issuing denials of coverage or service area. There are no financial incentives for UM decision-makers and therefore, Blue Shield does not encourage decisions that result in underutilization.

Medical necessity reviews (for both authorizations and non-authorizations) made by Blue Shield use a hierarchy of criteria. (The specific hierarchy can be found in the Utilization Management Program Description.) These criteria consist of internal medical policies established by the Blue Shield Medical Policy Committee, nationally recognized evidence-based criteria, Milliman Care Guidelines (MCG), National Imaging Associates (NIA) Radiology Clinical Guidelines, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and Medication Policies (for non-self-administered drugs such as Injectable and Implantable drugs) established by the Blue Shield Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee (these criteria and guidelines are adopted with input from network physicians and are regularly reviewed for clinical appropriateness). Where applicable, criteria established by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and DME coverage criteria are utilized. IPA/medical groups must use the most current version of the policies and manage updates to their UM review processes. These policies may be found on and may be updated quarterly as needed.

For fully-insured products, Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders reviews are conducted by applying the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM ) criteria, Level of Care Utilization System (LOCUS) guidelines, Child and Adolescent Level of Care Utilization System (CALOCUS) guidelines, Early Childhood Service Intensity Instrument (ECSII) guidelines, and World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines. Blue Shield may add additional guidelines from nonprofit professional associations as they become available in accordance with the revised California Mental Health Parity Act.

Coverage for medically necessary treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, is provided under the same terms and conditions applied to other medical conditions. “Medically necessary treatment of a mental health or substance use disorder” means a service or product addressing the specific needs of that patient, for the purpose of preventing, diagnosing, or treating an illness, injury, condition, or its symptoms, including minimizing the progression of an illness, injury, condition, or its symptoms, in a manner that is all of the following:

  • In accordance with the generally accepted standards of mental health and substance use disorder care;
  • Clinically appropriate in terms of type, frequency, extent, site, and duration; and
  • Not primarily for the economic benefit of the health care service plan and subscribers or for the convenience of the patient, treating physician, or other health care provider.

To request Utilization Management criteria or with questions, contact UM staff by phone or fax:

Phone:(800) 541-6652 (option #6)

Fax: (844) 807-8996

Blue Shield's policy for UM decisions can also be found in the HMO IPA/Medical Group Procedures Manual.

The information about utilization management for Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan providers can be found on Utilization management and clinical practice guidelines page.