Is ABA Therapy Expensive?

A person who is the caregiver, guardian or parent of a child with autism may wonder, “Is ABA therapy expensive?” This answer is important because the financial responsibilities of caring for a child with disabilities can often put a family into a dire situation. Families are often faced with the impossible decisions of getting the child the services they need in order to be able to live as independently as possible during adulthood or putting food on the table and clothes on the backs of everyone in the household.

Hourly Cost of ABA Therapy

The average hourly cost of ABA therapy is $120 as of January 2020. For most families, this is expensive. Considering the average hourly wage for workers in the United States was $27.16 as of August 2018, this is nearly four times the average hourly earnings of an American worker. It is also worth considering that when a household includes a child with a disability, the household income typically decreases. If two parents had worked outside of the home for paid employment, the birth of a child with a disability or the diagnosis of a disability in a child could necessitate that one parent work part-time or not at all in order to help with the child’s care.

Range of Yearly Expenses for ABA Therapy

A typical family of a child with autism will spend at least $17,000 per year on ABA therapy. Most households spend much more, with some families spending more than $40,000 per year on ABA therapy. The higher costs are related to the location where the services are provided and the number of therapy hours received by the child. A child who is severely impacted by autism may require more hours per week of the ABA therapy by a highly-trained, doctoral-level psychologist rather than a master’s degree-level psychology apprentice or assistant.

State Laws for Insurance Coverage of ABA Therapy

Each state has different laws about insurance coverage for ABA therapy. In 46 states, there are mandates for provision of ABA therapy for children with autism. The coverage level varies by the state and the child’s age. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama provides a maximum coverage of $36,000 per year for ABA therapy. In Arizona, the benefit is $50,000 per year for children up to age nine and $25,000 per year for children ages nine to 16.

Options for Families Paying Out-of-Pocket

If a family lives in a state where ABA therapy is not covered by insurance, or they use up their ABA insurance coverage, there are a few options for paying for the services. Families could use a Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Account to pay for these expenses and reduce their tax burden. Families paying cash might be able to negotiate lower fees.

Knowing how much ABA therapy costs could help a family figure out how much of it they can afford to pay for out-of-pocket and whether or not they might qualify for programs or services that could offset the cost of the therapy. Knowing the hourly rate of ABA therapy could also help families determine how many hours of services their child can get per year under their current health insurance coverage. Knowing the answer to, “Is ABA therapy expensive?” helps families plan for the future.

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