Does ABA therapy accept insurance?

Up and Up ABA

April 28, 2024

Does my ABA provider accept my insurance?

ABA therapy is a critical intervention for individuals with autism, yet navigating insurance coverage for it can be challenging. Coverage for ABA varies widely between insurance providers and is influenced by specific state mandates. In the United States, many insurance plans are required by law to cover ABA under certain conditions, which may include age restrictions and caps on annual benefits. The type of insurance plan—whether it’s a private plan, employer-provided, or a government program like Medicaid—also affects coverage details. This section delves into the key aspects of insurance policies concerning ABA therapy, emphasizing the importance of understanding the specifics of your own insurance coverage.

What is covered by insurance?

Typically, coverage is contingent upon an official diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder by a recognized medical professional. Furthermore, ABA therapy must often be prescribed or recommended by a qualified BCBA to qualify for coverage. Insurance policies may differ greatly in terms of the extent of coverage provided. Some policies offer full coverage, which means all costs associated with ABA therapy are reimbursed. However, more commonly, insurers provide partial coverage, where only a percentage of the therapy costs are covered, or there are set limits on the number of therapy hours per month or year. It’s important for policyholders to understand these details to navigate potential out-of-pocket costs and the overall scope of benefits available for ABA therapy under their insurance plan.

State laws require coverage

In many states, legislation mandates that health insurance plans include coverage for ABA therapy, a critical provision for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. These state-mandated benefits are designed to ensure accessible and effective treatment under specified conditions that policyholders should actively utilize. For coverage to apply, there must be an official diagnosis of autism from a qualified healthcare professional, with periodic reconfirmation required to maintain eligibility. Additionally, coverage is often age-restricted, typically to children and adolescents under 18 or 21 years old, emphasizing the need to initiate and continue treatment within these age parameters. States also impose limits on the amount of covered ABA therapy, either as annual dollar amounts or as maximum numbers of therapy hours per week or month. Once these limits are reached, further costs fall to the policyholder, making early and consistent use of benefits crucial. Furthermore, these laws stipulate that ABA therapy must be provided or supervised by certified professionals like BCBAs, ensuring high standards of care. While these mandates generally apply to fully insured plans, it’s important for individuals in mandated states to understand and maximize these benefits, particularly since such mandates do not typically cover self-insured plans used by many large employers.

Common problems with insurance coverage

Navigating the coverage of ABA therapy through insurance often presents several common limitations and challenges for families. Insurance plans frequently impose restrictions such as caps on the number of therapy hours or the total dollar amount covered annually, which can limit access to sustained treatment. Families may also encounter challenges with the specific eligibility requirements set by their insurance plans, such as stringent criteria for diagnoses or the necessity for continuous verification of the need for therapy to maintain coverage. Additionally, the variance in state laws and the differences between insurance providers can create a confusing landscape for families trying to secure and utilize ABA therapy benefits effectively. These hurdles not only complicate the process of obtaining necessary treatments but also place additional stress and financial burdens on families striving to support their loved ones.

Common insurance providers

Major insurance providers each have their own policies on ABA therapy coverage, often reflecting a mixture of state laws and corporate policy decisions. Here’s how a few notable insurers handle ABA therapy:


UnitedHealthcare covers ABA therapy for autism spectrum disorders when it’s considered medically necessary. They require an initial assessment and a treatment plan developed by a certified BCBA. Coverage details, including caps on the number of therapy hours and cost-sharing terms, can vary by state and plan type.

Blue Cross Blue Shield

Coverage for ABA therapy varies significantly across different BCBS affiliates, depending on the state. Most affiliates provide coverage but might have specific requirements for preauthorization and limits on the number of covered hours per year. For example, BCBS of Massachusetts offers comprehensive ABA benefits with preauthorization, focusing on continuous treatment evaluations to ensure ongoing coverage.


Cigna provides coverage for ABA therapy under many of its health plans, particularly when a formal diagnosis of autism is made by a specialist. Cigna typically requires detailed treatment plans and regular progress reports to continue funding ABA therapy. The extent of coverage can differ, with some plans imposing yearly limits on the number of therapy hours.


Aetna covers ABA therapy as part of its behavioral health services, with the requirement that therapy be considered necessary and prescribed by a specialist. Coverage specifics, such as deductible amounts and co-pays, can vary widely between individual and group plans.

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