Eating disorder treatment requires trained, multidisciplinary clinical support over a long period of time. Paying for eating disorder treatment is, for families living in countries without a national health system, an additional cause of stress. For those with national health systems, going outside the system for specialized care is extremely expensive.
For those with health insurance policies, coverage may be limited or difficult to access. For those without health insurance, or without coverage for mental health care, the price of care can be prohibitive.
In the United States, where rules differ across state lines and between insurance carriers, the situation is complex. Although a federal "mental health parity" law was recently passed, insurance companies can still exclude eating disorder treatment. At present it is up to each family to individuallynegotiate options.
Costs vary widely between clinics and locations, but in the US here are some estimates:
$1,200 USD/day inpatient/residential care (often 6 weeks-3 months)
$300-500 USD/day initial evaluation at a multi-disciplinary clinic
$100-300 USD/hour psychotherapy or nutritionist ongoing hourly appointments
Parents need to know that eating disorders can be treated either as a medical issue (where only emergency stabilization - not treatment to full recovery - are likely to be covered), or a psychological issue (where coverage is often excluded or limited). Since an eating disorder is only technically diagnosable when the patient is significantly impaired, recovery can be stalled if the family is not able to continue to pay for care when the patient is stable; most eating disorder treatment needs to extend long after medical restoration.
In the case of a dispute, parents can contact their state's insurance regulatory agency to seek free assistance. Another resource is local legal aid offices to seek 'pro bono' (free of charge) services.
The price of treatment does not take into account travel costs, phone consultations, and lost wages.
Eating disorders are potentially disabling and deadly conditions. Delay of care, and settling for inadequate care, can reduce the chance of a patient's recovery.
Academy for Eating Disorders Position Paper: Eating Disorders Are Serious Mental Illnesses