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Does Insurance Cover Service Dogs?

Does Insurance Cover Service Dogs?

Does insurance cover service dogs? For people who require a service dog to go about their daily lives, this is an extremely important question. Service dogs don’t come cheap, nor do the medical bills associated with many disabilities. If you have a disability that requires costly medical bills, you’ll want to save wherever you can.

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So, does insurance cover service dogs? In most cases, the answer is no. Neither Original Medicare nor private insurance plans will cover the costs of acquiring or maintaining a service dog. However, there are some rare exceptions. Additionally, there are ways to save on the ongoing costs of a service animal.

Does any insurance plan cover service dogs?

Insurance is already complicated, especially if you have a disability. So, let’s go down the list to see which types of insurance (if any) will cover the cost of service dogs:

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  • Will Original Medicare pay for a service dog? No.
  • Will Medicaid pay for a service dog? No.
  • Will private insurance pay for a service dog? No.
  • Will Medicare Advantage pay for a service dog? Possibly, but only in part.

Medicare Advantage and service dogs

A Medicare Advantage plan provides the same benefits as Original Medicare but through a private insurer. However, many Medicare Advantage plans provide additional coverage like vision, dental, hearing, and wellness services. These extra benefits allow people to save on medical costs that Medicare Part A and Part B won’t cover.

In rare cases, Medicare Advantage will cover some of the expenses of owning a service dog. For example, Anthem’s 2020 Medicare Advantage plans offer up to $500 per year to pay for items like food, vests, and leashes for your service animal. 

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That said, no Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, or private insurance plan will cover the cost of obtaining or training a service dog. As a result, the upfront costs of getting a service dog can be quite expensive. For many people, the initial cost of obtaining a service dog is the greatest hurdle to jump.

How much does a service dog cost?

Service dogs are expensive for a number of reasons. First, these are not just stray dogs that an organization took off the street. Serve dogs require years of intense training so that they can provide daily care to people with disabilities. Second, service dogs can stay with their owners for upwards of 10 years, depending on the health of the animal. This means that service dogs are, in essence, long-term investments in your health and happiness.

In any case, costs vary widely based on the provider and the type of service dog you need. For example, a service dog for the blind tends to be more expensive than a psychiatric service dog. This is because a service dog for the blind usually requires more time and effort to train. Regardless of your condition, you can expect to pay at least $10,000 for a service dog. On average, service dogs cost between $15,000 and $30,000. 

This initial cost covers the training and daily care of the puppy until it is ready to be your service animal. Once the dog is in your care, you can expect to pay between $1,000 to $2,000 per year in medical expenses, food, toys, and other items. Fortunately, there are ways to assist those who need help paying for a service dog.

How to pay for a service dog

Non-Profit Organizations

If you need help paying for a service dog, you have a few options. Non-profit organizations like the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, the Canine Companions for Independence, and the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners all offer financial assistance to applicants who qualify. However, the waiting lists are usually pretty long. So, if you think you need a service dog, apply through one or more of these organizations as soon as possible.

Social Security Benefits

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You can use disability benefits to help cover the costs of acquiring and caring for a service dog. If you qualify for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, you will receive a monthly income. In many cases, you will also receive a lump sum upfront. These funds can be put toward the initial cost of a service dog.

Flexible Spending Account

While insurance does not pay for service dogs, a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) could help cover the cost of purchasing a service dog. An FSA is a part of some insurance plans that allows you to use your pre-tax income for pre-approved medical costs. In the end, this will reduce the price you pay for a service dog and provide additional funds for the initial purchase.

Personal Savings

With long wait lists for financial assistance and little help from insurance companies, most people have to draw from their own savings to get a service dog. It may be a tough decision to make, but a service dog can provide much-needed support. Investing in a service dog could save you from paying for in-home care or additional medical bills down the road, so drawing from your own savings could be a good option.

Personal Loans

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While you shouldn’t have to go into debt to get the care you need, you may have exhausted your options. If you have enough credit to get a personal loan with low APR, it could allow you to pay for all of the costs of a service dog upfront. However, making ongoing payments toward the loan may hinder your ability to provide ongoing care for your service animal. Naturally, you will need to evaluate your financial situation before taking on any debt.

Get a Service Dog Today

A service dog isn’t just a companion. These animals provide necessary medical services for people who suffer from physical, mental, or emotional impairments. Nobody should have to go through these struggles alone. 

If you think you could benefit from a service animal, consult your healthcare provider today. Only a licensed physician can provide the documentation needed to qualify. For more information on the application process and qualification requirements, check out our guide on how to get a service dog!

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Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy. You can check out his blog at Philosophy in Film.