How to Finance Eating Disorder Treatment Out-of-Country

Girl in the LGBTQ+ community who struggles with eating disorder

Some insurance programs can make it challenging for families to get coverage, but there are steps you can take to make the pre-approval process easier when seeking treatment for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder out-of-country.

First, make sure you understand your policy. Insurance can be difficult to read, but contacting your carrier’s representative can help you understand your policy coverage. Secondly, choose an in-network provider.

Most eating disorder treatment programs are denied coverage because the provider or facility may be out-of-network. Third, know your coverage limits on what will be provided at the treatment facility [3].

A study was recently conducted in Ontario on patients who received specialized inpatient care for an eating disorder out-of-country from 2003 to 2011. It was found that eating disorder care is a substantial economic burden to the health care system [1].

In Ontario, to be eligible for out-of-country care, patients must have a diagnosed eating disorder by one of Ontario’s funded inpatient programs for eating disorders. In this study, the researchers found that the number of funded applications for out-of-country care increased over 6 years. Hospitalizations for problems caused by eating disorders increased 19 percent from 1999 to 2006 in the U.S. and residential stays can cost $30,000 per month [2].

When Insurance Coverage is Not Available

There are also options if you are uninsured or are unable to afford private payment, such as community-based and non-profit organizations. There are various public mental health centers, hospitals, and clinicians in private practice that offer eating disorder treatment at a discounted fee, or sliding scale rate for those unable to pay with health insurance.

The Elisa Project is a non-profit organization that provides education, advocacy, and referral services to individuals with eating disorders and their families in Texas. This is one example of programs across the U.S. that support eating disorder treatment.

Woman holding world globeWhether your treatment is in or out-of-country, admission counselors at any treatment facility can help you explore payment options for services. These include using savings or retirement accounts, medical loans, financial loans from family members, opening or using credit accounts, and sales of personal property to fund treatment.

There are also online resources to seek out research programs for eating disorder treatment where the cost is minimal or free.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and the Academy of Eating Disorders (AED) are both sites that have listed research programs with contact information. is another resource which lists federal and privately supported research trials conducted worldwide. Treatment centers may also offer financial assistance, and often do not promote it unless you ask.

Eating Disorder Organizations That Can Help

There are a few organizations that offer scholarships for treatment. Moonshadow Spirit offers financial aid to individuals who are seeking inpatient or partial hospitalization. Kirsten Haglund Foundation and Manna Scholarship Fund also offer grants for those seeking financial assistance. The Manna Fund is a non-profit which provides financial assistance for inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment [4].

Project HEAL is another eating disorder organization that provides grants for all levels of care to individuals who are unable to afford treatment [5].

Loans are another option for how to finance your eating disorder treatment out-of-country [6]. Loans can be provided for behavioral health, substance abuse, or eating disorder treatment. Typically, lending-based companies will help cover partial or all levels of care. Knowing what options there are for health coverage if out-of-country can be a benefit to knowing what options for treatment are in your area.

Using Your Current Health Insurance for Eating Disorder Treatment

When looking at using your health insurance out-of-country, it is important to keep your current insurance. Some plans will continue to cover you even if you are not being treated in your country of origin.

Girl calling home from overseas

Some government-funded health plans will not cover overseas costs [7]. If your primary health insurance will cover you overseas, you may need to pay upfront for treatment, then seek reimbursement when returning home. Look into the typical costs of the treatment facility, doctor visits, therapies, and medications to know what your costs will be.

Another option is to obtain individual travel and health coverage. This can include coverage for emergencies, and is generally bundled together with short-term duration health insurance while out-of-country. Travel insurance can include medical treatment due to an accident or illness, referrals around the globe, and needed medications. It is typically offered as a supplementary coverage but can be the only health insurance a person uses while abroad.

If you are a student who is seeking treatment at your university in a different country, you can enroll for your host country’s health services to receive treatment. Similarly, if you are employed on a work exchange, you may also be eligible for group insurance through the employer or qualify for national health plans.

In conclusion, there are various options to explore when knowing how to finance eating disorder treatment out-of-country. From individual and family health insurance plans to foundations and national health plans, an individual who is seeking eating disorder treatment can get the support they need abroad.

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.

Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.


[1]:  Oliveira, C. D., Macdonald, E. M., Green, D., Colton, P., Olmsted, M., Bondy, S., & Kurdyak, P. (2016). Cost evaluation of out-of-country care for patients with eating disorders in Ontario: a population-based study. CMAJ Open,4(4). doi:10.9778/cmajo.20160057
[2] Alderman, L. (2010, December 03). Treating Eating Disorders and Paying for It. Retrieved May 15, 2017, from
[3] (n.d) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
[4] (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017 from
[5] (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
[6] (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from
[7] (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2017, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 5, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 5, 2017.
Published on