You’ve been told that your child needs speech therapy services. You’re trying to draft a monthly budget for your family. How much should you set aside to pay for care?

It’s a question families all across the country try to answer, and unfortunately, it’s not an easy process. Few therapists display how much they charge per hour, as the fee can fluctuate widely depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Where you live.
  • Where the services will be delivered.
  • Whether you plan to use insurance to pay for care.
  • What type of insurance coverage you have.

In 2021, speech therapy session prices range from $100 to $250 on average, but insurance often largely offsets that cost. To get specific numbers, you’ll need to talk to the provider in question and give them your insurance information to determine what you’ll likely pay out of pocket.

What Is Speech Therapy?

As you dig into the cost, you may begin to wonder if your child really needs speech therapy. Isn’t it just the same as the other types of care your child taps into every day? Can’t you just skip it?

In reality, speech therapy is quite different than other forms of care. If you commit to the therapy, you’ll see benefits well worth the cost. In most cases, insurance will greatly offset the out-of-pocket costs for families. 

As Autism Speaks explains, speech therapy is designed to help people with autism communicate in more useful ways. Therapy can help people with both verbal and nonverbal forms of speech, and some therapists can help clients build critical social skills too. 

Speech therapy isn’t just for people with autism either. Experts explain that your child might need speech therapy due to:

  • Articulation disorders. Your child struggles to make coherent sounds, so listeners can’t understand what’s said.
  • Fluency disorders. Your child stutters or prolongs sounds.
  • Resonance disorders. Your child speaks too loudly, too high, or in another manner than distracts from the content of their speech.
  • Language disorders. Your child can’t understand language, or your child struggles to use language in an appropriate manner. Your child might also have cognitive disorders that involve memory or perception.

Speech therapists are adept at crafting treatment programs to meet the needs of individuals. There is no one-size-fits-all program for someone with a speech issue. Instead, these professionals assess where children are now, and they build programs to help them reach their goals.

Cost Comparisons in the United States 

As mentioned, it’s difficult to nail down just how much speech therapy sessions cost within the United States. Few companies make their fee schedules public. But some outside sources dig through the data, and their research makes some cost issues grow clear.

These are current costs from reputable resources:

  • $236: MD Save says this is the estimated national average price for one speech therapy visit.
  • $100 to nearly $250: CostHelper says this is the national per-hour average price for people without insurance. Patients also need an assessment, which typically costs $200 to $250, the organization says.
  • $100 and up: Special Learning says this is a starting hourly price for speech therapy.

These prices may seem high, and these sessions are often more expensive than other routine forms of care. But the cost covers so much. As the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association explains, therapists must set fees to cover their expenses, including the following:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Taxes
  • Professional consultants
  • Marketing
  • Continuing education
  • Travel expenses, including those associated with offsite appointments
  • Supplies
  • Insurance
  • Licenses
  • Maintenance

Some students can access speech services within their schools. Those who do, and who benefit from their appointments, may not need private care. Families of children like this could save quite a bit of money.

But school speech therapy options are limited, and in some cases, they’re just not enough to help a child develop robust communication skills. Children like this need private care, and parents must look for ways to cover the costs.

Will Insurance Help?

In general, families need a doctor’s help to access insurance benefits for speech therapy. Although you may know that your child needs assistance, and your child’s teachers may agree, a doctor must give your child a diagnosis that merits speech therapy. Often, a doctor must write out a prescription for speech therapy before you can get started. 

Insurance plans often cover speech therapy visits, as long as you have your diagnostic and referral information in order. For example:

  • Cigna offers coverage for speech therapy, but the coverage levels vary from plan to plan. If your plan has this coverage, you must provide proof of need, and your child must show improvement with therapy. You’ll need to submit evidence and ask for more sessions every six months.
  • Tricare covers speech therapy, but only if the speech issue results from birth defects, disease, injury, or development disorders. Some children may not qualify for the therapy they need in this model.
  • Medicare helps to pay for speech therapy sessions, but you must pay 20% of the amount of each session, and you must meet your deductible too.

If you plan to use insurance to pay for care, start a conversation before the first appointment begins. Ensure that your provider accepts your type of insurance, and then call the insurance company and find out how much of the bill will be your responsibility. Many speech therapists can also coordinate with your insurance company to get you an exact number on your out-of-pocket costs.

Don’t wait to hold these talks until after your first session ends. Do that, and you might be responsible for the entire bill when it arrives.

What Can Shift the Cost?

Everyone wants to save money, and sometimes, the decisions we make have a deep impact on the bills we must pay. Speech therapy is a little different. 

Your child’s diagnosis has little to do with how much your therapy sessions cost. Most therapists charge per hour, not per diagnosis. You won’t pay more per hour if your child has autism versus if your child has a stutter.

Therapy frequency can play a big role in your price tag. If your child has pervasive language disorders that require intensive therapy every day, you’ll obviously pay more than a family of a child with only a mild impairment. 

If your child does need daily care, ask the therapist about steps you can take at home. Are there therapy techniques you can try to help build your child’s skills? Are there lessons you can duplicate on your own? Perhaps you can shorten the treatment frequency times and save money, but you’ll have to put in more work on your own.

The location of your therapy sessions can also impact the price. Your child could benefit from:

  • Home visits. The therapist comes to your home to do the work. With this option, you must be required to pay a travel fee, and those costs can add up. Home visits are beneficial, as the child can learn in a comfortable environment, but this is the most expensive option you can choose.
  • Office visits. You travel to your therapist’s office for care. A time commitment is involved, as you must drive your child to each visit and back home again, but you won’t pay your therapist’s travel fees. This can be a time-consuming option if your child has daily appointments. 
  • Telemedicine. Your doctor and your child connect via video. In Oregon, you’d pay about $50 for a visit like this, says Fair Health Consumer. That cost savings could be helpful, but remember that some students don’t learn well online. You’ll need to stay involved to keep your child engaged. If this format doesn’t work well for your child, you may need to switch to in-person sessions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about cost as you look for help for your child. Your budget is important to your family’s overall health.

Insurance is the best way to cover the costs of speech therapy. Start with getting specifics on your plan and what it covers.

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