Prior Authorization: What You Need to Know

Prior Authorization: What You Need to Know

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Understanding your health insurance is the best way to enjoy all its benefits. When you know what steps you need to take before treatment, things go more smoothly. One of the most important steps is prior authorization.

Many times, your doctor will need to get approval — prior authorization — before your plan will cover certain health care services and medicines. Your doctor may also call it preauthorization or preapproval. Worried that getting prior authorization might be a hassle? It’s easier than you think. Here’s what you need to know.

Why is prior authorization important?
Some health care services and prescription drugs must be approved by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) before they are covered under your plan. This is how we support you in getting the right care, at the right place and at the right time

How does prior authorization work?
Your doctor will submit a prior authorization request before ordering a test or medication. If the request for prior authorization isn't approved, your insurer will let you and your doctor know. If that happens, you and your doctor may choose another treatment option or offer more information so the request can be reviewed again.

If your providers aren't in network, you'll be responsible for getting the prior authorization. If you don't, your health plan may not cover the cost.

Which health care services need prior authorization?
Things like diagnostic images and complex care need prior authorization before you are treated. Prior authorization for MRIs and CT scans is standard. Your care provider will know to ask first, but don’t be afraid to make sure. Each plan is different, so it's always good to ask.

Log in to your Blue Access for MembersSM (BAMSM) account on your computer or with the BCBSOK mobile app. Then you can set your notification preferences to get status updates on your prior authorizations via email or text.

What prescription drugs call for prior authorization?
Drugs that may be unsafe when used with other medications need prior authorization. Drugs that should only be used for certain health conditions are also on the prior authorization list. So are commonly misused drugs. If you have coverage with BCBSOK’s pharmacy benefit manager Prime Therapeutics*, you can find out which drugs need prior authorization. Go to leaving site icon and look under Medicines. You can also call the customer service number on your member ID card.

Medications that need approval will only be covered by your plan if your doctor gets prior authorization. 

What should I do if a drug or service needs prior authorization?
If you are seeing an in-network doctor, your doctor will need to submit a request. You may also want to call the customer service number on your member ID card to make sure your doctor asked for prior authorization.

If you are going to a doctor who is not in your plan's network, contact us to get prior authorization. Call the customer service number on your member ID card to determine the next steps.

What happens if my prior authorization isn’t approved?
If coverage for a health care service or medication is denied, you and your doctor may change your treatment plans. If you get the service or drug without prior authorization, you will have to pay the costs. You have the right to appeal the decision. Find information about the appeal process in your benefits documents.

* Depending on your plan, your prescription drug benefits may not be handled by Prime Therapeutics. If not, call the Pharmacy Program number on your member ID card to see if your medicine needs prior authorization.

Originally published 5/13/2015; Revised 2021, 2023; Reviewed 2022

  • Our coverage just started on January and I have been trying to get an authorization for my prescription Linzess for over 5 months now. I've taken it for 13 years because of IBS-C.  I am miserable. Doubled over in pain, cramps, sweating, passing out. This continues to interrupt my daily life. I can't even go to work most days and I run a business.  I've tried every medication you've asked of me to try and my physician has prescribed everything you've asked. Nothing works for me like the Linzess. I look for any information regarding am authorization on the website and app under Prior Authorization and in messages. There  is no information regarding my claim. I have to wait until I receive yet another denial letter in the mail and jump through the next hoop only to be told no you have to try something else. We continue to pay our premiums and pay for medications that don't work all so you can tell me no. What do I need to do for you now that I may receive the Linzess that has worked for me for 13 years????