Service animals can change the lives of their handlers, helping with physical, mental, or sensory disabilities. For them to achieve this, they undergo a lot of training, which can cause them to be very expensive to get. Due to the highly specialized nature of this training, a service dog can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. That doesn’t even include the regular costs of feeding and housing the dog. Most people don’t have that kind of money lying around, so how can someone in need afford those fees? Can Medicare or other insurances help cover some of these costs?
Does Medicare Cover Service Dogs or Miniature Horses?
Many medical costs, especially those related to disabilities, are covered by Medicare, making it easier for beneficiaries to afford the care they need. As it stands, though, Medicare doesn’t cover the costs of getting a service animal. It also doesn’t cover the day-to-day costs of a service animal, like those associated with feeding and veterinarian bills. That said, Medicare may help with other costs related to your disability (e.g., durable medical equipment or mental health coverage), which can help you to save money for a service animal.
Does Medicaid or Other Insurances Cover Service Animals?
Medicaid is similar in that it will not cover the costs of a service animal. In fact, no insurance currently offers coverage for service animals. Luckily, there are other services out there that can help with these costs.
What Services Help People Afford Service Animals?
If you are receiving disability benefits, you may be able to use them to help you afford your service animal. Specifically, in some instances, you may be able to use Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) benefits to help pay for your service pooch. The same goes for traditional Social Security benefits. You can use these benefits for many of the day-to-day care needs, as well as the training of your animal.
If you receive veteran benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you may also receive coverage for a service dog. If you think you may need a service animal, meet with your doctor. If your primary care physician believes that a service dog is necessary, an application will be submitted on your behalf. After careful review, you may receive a service dog. Service dogs that are attained this way will have their veterinary bills and equipment paid for by the VA Prosthetic & Sensory Aids Service. However, the VA does not cover the dog itself, boarding, grooming, food, or other routine expenses.
Other Ways to Get Help
If you’re not a veteran or receiving disability benefits, there are other ways you can get some help with the costs of a service animal. One such way is to create a flexible spending account (FSA) that gives you a tax-free way to save for the costs associated with your service animal. You can also apply for a personal loan, as long as you are able to afford the payments.
Another great option is to try to receive a grant from a non-profit organization that trains and provides service animals to those in need. Many of these focus on one type of disability or are members of a group (like veterans). Others focus on a wide range of disabilities, training dogs according to the needs of the applicant. Some major nonprofits include Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD), Paws With A Cause®, Service Dog Express, Freedom Service Dogs of America, or Merlin’s Kids. Bankrate.com has an exhaustive list of charitable organizations that might be worth looking into. It may also be worth searching closer to your home, as there are many smaller organizations that seek to have more of a local impact.
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Service animals take everything that’s great about a pet — the love, the companionship, the fun — and add an entirely new component of trained support for those who really need it. The only issue may be affording them, since Medicare and other insurances do not cover them. Luckily, through saving, planning, and the kindness of many nonprofits out there, individuals with disabilities can often get a service animal if they need one.