The Annual Cost of Autism Continues to Soar


By Lisa Ackerman (Original post in May 2012 with updates in July 2015)

In May 2012, new figures were released to highlight a huge increase in the annual autism costs. Autism costs had soared to $137 billion a year (1). This represented a three-fold increase within the last decade. Fast forward 3 years and those costs have skyrocketed to $268 billion annually (2.)

The study made some dire predictions:

“Few US estimates of the economic burden of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are available and none provide estimates for 2015 and 2025. We forecast annual direct medical, direct non-medical, and productivity costs combined will be $268 billion (range $162–$367 billion; 0.884–2.009 % of GDP) for 2015 and $461 billion (range $276–$1011 billion; 0.982–3.600 % of GDP) for 2025. These 2015 figures are on a par with recent estimates for diabetes and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and exceed the costs of stroke and hypertension. If the prevalence of ASD continues to grow as it has in recent years, ASD costs will likely far exceed those of diabetes and ADHD by 2025.”


If you ask about “who pays for autism?” my answer would be everyone. At TACA, we know many families living with autism are carrying much of these costs.  Families put a second mortgage on their homes, sell their homes and move into an apartment or with a relative, take out multiple credit cards, borrow from family members, and often one parent takes on a second job to help make ends meet.  Some families have opted to double up households with two families to share expenses and put most of their housing funds into their children.  This is an enormous burden to families living with autism.

Since we don’t have a census on autism, we can only estimate that 80% of those living with autism are ages 22 years or younger. This means that we don’t have enough data to calculate the life time costs of autism.  Based on what we know today, it is estimated that these costs are $3-5 million per affected individual.  Sadly, with these articles highlighting the tripling of costs, we don’t see this trend slowing down anytime soon (4.)

With the downturn in the economy and getting very little relief over the past 8 years, special needs families are being hit hard.  Necessary support services are drying up.  Support for families is dwindling while the pool of those needing help keeps soaring. Supporting families living with autism has become harder.  At TACA we have fewer tools to assist these families than were available just a few years ago.

This is the last paragraph in a recent article featured as a follow up to CBS online news highlighting the soaring cost of autism.  It is quite shocking (3):

The researchers said their best estimate for ASD-related “medical, nonmedical and productivity losses” this year is $268 billion. If more effective treatments aren’t found, researchers estimate the cost of care could go up to $461 billion and possibly up to $1 trillion in 2025.

Taxpayers don’t know that autism is the least funded disability in the US with an epidemic rise in prevalence in the past 20 years.  The numbers continue to increase as well as the costs (4.)

What we don’t know outside of the enormous annual costs is the toll to families, resources and to the individuals living with autism. Those costs are much higher.




Resources for Families:

Who pays for what services:

Health insurance coverage

Autism on public assistance

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