How Does Medicare Cover Service Animals?

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Service animals can be very helpful to their humans. They can change lives by helping us with sensory, physical, and mental struggles. A service animal goes through extensive training that allows them to provide for us, but that also means they’re expensive to purchase. The average service animal can range in price from $15,000 to $50,000. That doesn’t even include the ongoing costs of food, grooming, vet bills, vaccines, etc.

Does Medicare cover the cost of a service animal? Let’s find out.

Does Medicare Cover Service Dogs?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), only dogs are allowed as service animals. Unfortunately, Medicare does not offer any type of insurance benefit to help cover the cost of purchasing or maintaining a service dog (or any other service animal). Medicare is not alone in that regard. Currently, there are no insurance plans, including Medicaid, that offer cost-sharing benefits for service animals.

Senior women resting with Service Dog
Those receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) can use their benefits to pay for the training and maintenance care of their service animals.

What Programs Help Pay for Service Animals?

Outside of insurance, there are a handful of ways you can get help paying for your service animal.

Those receiving Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) can use their benefits to pay for the training and maintenance care of their service animals. The same is true for Social Security benefits.

In addition, if you receive benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you may be able to get financial assistance. To find out if you qualify, you’ll need to meet with your primary care physician. If they think a service animal is necessary, they’ll submit an application on your behalf. The application will be reviewed by a team, who will make the ultimate decision. If approved, the VA will pay for veterinary bills and equipment. However, the initial purchase of the animal, as well as other expenses like grooming, food, boarding, and other routine expenses will not be covered.

If you aren’t a veteran and aren’t taking Social Security benefits yet, you may be able to find other programs that offer financial assistance for service dogs. Several non-profit organizations distribute grants for service animals. Most of these non-profits focus on applicants with specific disabilities or part of specific groups (like veterans). A few of the major non-profits include:

  • International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
  • Merin’s Kids
  • Freedom Service Dogs of America
  • Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD)
  • Service Dog Express
  • Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
  • Paws with a Cause
  • Canine Companions for Independence

You may also find organizations within your local community that offer these types of services.

We’ve got one more helpful tip for you. If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), service animals count as qualified medical expenses. You can use your HSA to purchase a service animal and to pay for training, food, and veterinary care.

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Justin Brock

President & CEO of Bobby Brock Insurance