Does Medical Insurance Cover Service Dogs
Service Training

Does Medical Insurance Cover Service Dogs

  • October 15, 2021

The cost of a fully trained service animal regularly reaches $20,000 or more, depending on the type of service the animal provides. Ultimately, many people who can't afford the full price of a service animal look to community fundraising like GoFundMe to pay for their service animal. Pet insurance for service animalsIf you depend on your service animal as part of your day-to-day life, you might consider getting pet insurance. Service animals vs. emotional support animalsThere's an important distinction between a support animal and an emotional support animal. Businesses must allow service animals and their handlers to enter but may deny entry to emotional support animals.

Service Animals Can Be Life Changing for People With Disabilities

Like you might expect, it takes a lot of specialized training to turn an everyday dog into one that can help people with disabilities get around. The cost of a fully trained service animal regularly reaches $20,000 or more, depending on the type of service the animal provides.

Fortunately, a variety of organizations provide service animals at little to no cost to the people who need them most. And while health insurance generally doesn't cover the expense of a service animal, there are other ways for people who would benefit to reduce the cost of owning one.

Note: Starting in 2011, the main type of animal that's legally recognized as a service animal is a dog. Everything we cover in this piece pertains specifically to service dogs.

Key findings:

How much does a service animal cost to get?

While training a service dog always requires months of expensive training (whether done by a professional or on your own), what you'll end up paying out of pocket largely depends on the type of service you need your animal to perform. There are nonprofit organizations nationwide that provide service animals to people with disabilities, often at little to no cost to the handler (the person who will work with the animal). It's entirely possible you could receive your service animal for only a few hundred dollars or less — even including weeks of training on how to work effectively with your new partner.

However, these organizations typically specialize in providing a specific kind of service animal, and some service animal types are more commonly trained than others. Animals that act as a guide for someone with visual impairment or blindness, or provide mobility assistance (opening doors and picking up and carrying things) are the most common.

These organizations also have fairly strict eligibility requirements. For instance, The Seeing Eye, one of the nation's largest service animal organizations, requires that applicants are at least 16, are active enough to benefit from having a guide dog and are able to care for the animal, among other things. Due to high demand, you'll also likely end up waiting several months between being deemed eligible and meeting your dog.

There are few groups that specialize in training dogs to respond to things like diabetes or psychological conditions like PTSD. As a result, if you need a service dog to help with one of these conditions, you're more likely to have to pay for the cost to train the dog yourself.

Where can you get a service animal?

There are three main ways people with disabilities can get a service animal:

  • Receive it directly from an organization
  • Hire a professional
  • Train it yourself

Surprisingly, receiving a fully trained service dog from an established organization is often the most cost-effective option, even if the group does not fully subsidize the cost of buying and training the animal. This is because the dog will be trained "full-time" in an organized environment from the moment it's old enough to be trained.

Furthermore, if you receive a fully trained dog from an established organization, you have a much better sense of what you're getting. When you meet your service animal, it will already be fully trained. If it turns out that you and your service dog are not a good fit, the program will likely pair you with a replacement animal. If you want to train a dog yourself, you're responsible for it no matter what, even if it proves unsuitable to be a service dog.

For people who get a service animal from a major organization, you'll likely work with the group's staff over a period of weeks to get to know your animal and learn how to use your service animal most effectively. After your training period, handlers can also receive ongoing training and consultation if they need it.

Other ways to pay for a service animal

Unfortunately, if you're faced with the full $20,000-plus bill to buy and train a service animal, the cost to acquire a service animal is almost never covered by health insurance.

One bright spot is that you can generally use pre-tax money from your flexible spending account or health savings account (FSA or HSA) through your health insurance, if you have one. Just know that you'll need a letter of medical necessity to qualify.

There are also a variety of groups that provide funding for people to afford service animals, like Petco Foundation.

Ultimately, many people who can't afford the full price of a service animal look to community fundraising like GoFundMe to pay for their service animal.

How much does it cost to own a service animal?

After you're done with the initial purchase or training of your service animal, the costs to own it are roughly the same as if the animal were a regular pet. For a dog, this would include food, treats, veterinary visits and grooming, among other things.

The only additional costs you might incur beyond what's typical for a pet is specialized equipment, like a service dog harness, or additional training. You can use FSA/HSA money to pay for these expenses, though it's less likely you can use that money for typical pet expenses like grooming or treats.

Pet insurance for service animals

If you depend on your service animal as part of your day-to-day life, you might consider getting pet insurance. The good news is that for normal coverage, service animals don't cost any more than typical pets. Pet insurance costs about $47.20 per month for dogs, including treatment for both illnesses and injuries. However, this cost can be impacted by your dog's breed, so you may end up paying more or less.

Additionally, keep in mind that most pet insurance plans will not cover the full cost to replace your service animal — they'll only cover medical expenses.

Service animals vs. emotional support animals

There's an important distinction between a support animal and an emotional support animal. Support animals are trained to perform a specific task because of its handler's disability.

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, simply boost their owner's mood by virtue of being there and providing comfort. These animals are not as rigorously trained, and you can often have your own existing pet certified as a support animal without thousands of dollars' worth of classes.

However, owners of emotional support animals receive fewer legal protections under the law. Businesses must allow service animals and their handlers to enter but may deny entry to emotional support animals.

Service animal

Emotional support animal

What they doPerform a specific task in service of a disabilityProvide emotional comfort (not trained in a specific task)Where they're required to be permittedAny business or public spaceHousing and airplanes (not other businesses)

How To Afford A Service Dog

How To Afford A Service Dog

How To Afford A Service Dog

Before you or a family member get a service dog, check your local laws about eligibility requirements and plan how you will be able to afford one. Service dogs vs. emotional support dogsService dogs differ from emotional support dogs in that a service dog is trained to perform a job that their owner cannot. Before your service dog comes home, you’ll want to prepare your living space with dog food, toys and other pet supplies. Although you’re not required to go through an ADI-accredited program to get a service dog, doing so ensures that the service dog received the care and comprehensive training needed to successfully serve your needs. Landlords are required as part of the Fair Housing Act to make reasonable accommodations to service dogs, so don’t assume that only expensive apartment complexes will allow service dogs.

Are Service Dogs Covered by Insurance?

Are Service Dogs Covered by Insurance?

Are Service Dogs Covered by Insurance?

Service dogs have a unique ability to change people's lives in a way that no medication, therapy or technology can. TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) Service dogs are not currently covered under any type of insurance. Obtaining a Service DogAlthough health insurance does not pay for a service dog, other options exist for obtaining one. Friendly, calm and obedient dogs who can not only behave well in public but also focus on the task at hand despite distractions make the best service dogs. Owner-trained service dogs remain a possibility due to no formal requirements or certifications for service animals.

5 options to cover the costs of a service dog

5 options to cover the costs of a service dog

5 options to cover the costs of a service dog

5 ways to pay for a service dogWhen you’re ready to buy a service dog, here are five financing options to consider:Nonprofit grants. A service dog typically costs between $15,000 and $30,000 to adopt and train, according to the nonprofit Service Dog Certifications. For instance, both Smoky Mountain Service Dogs and Mutts with a Mission offer service dogs and financial assistance to veterans. Unfortunately, neither Medicaid nor Medicare cover the costs of obtaining or caring for a service dog. Fortunately, unless your dog is prone to health issues or is injured, caring for a service dog won’t cost more than any other dog.

Does Insurance Cover Service Dogs?

Does Insurance Cover Service Dogs?

Does Insurance Cover Service Dogs?

Does insurance cover service dogs? So, does insurance cover service dogs? Does any insurance plan cover service dogs? For example, a service dog for the blind tends to be more expensive than a psychiatric service dog. Get a Service Dog TodayA service dog isn’t just a companion.

Eligible Expenses for HSAs, FSAs and HRA

You can pay for certain health care, vision, and dental costs with an HRA, HSA, or Health Care FSA. Health Care FSA - You can use your health care FSA to pay yourself back for eligible health care, vision, and dental expenses for yourself, your spouse, or eligible dependents (children, siblings, parents, and other dependents as defined in your plan documents). Your employer determines which health care expenses are eligible under an HRA. However, medical expenses paid for other cosmetic procedures are not deductible medical expenses under Code Section 213(d), and thus are not reimbursable. Dependent day care expenses - Dependent day care expenses are not reimbursable under a Health FSA, HRA or HSA, but may be reimbursable under a dependent care FSA.

What Does a Diabetes Service Dog Do?

What Does a Diabetes Service Dog Do?

What Does a Diabetes Service Dog Do?

One of the solutions for this condition is man’s best friend: a diabetes service dog. Not all people with diabetes may benefit from, or need, a diabetes service dog. In terms of expenses, insurance companies may pay for the costs associated with a diabetes service dog. Having a diabetes service dog is an investment in time and funds, and is a relationship that will ideally last at least a decade for the dog and owner. Having a service dog is a commitment on the part of the owner to take the time necessary to build a bond with a service dog to ensure they can work well together.

Can You Get a Service Dog for Anxiety?

Can You Get a Service Dog for Anxiety?

Can You Get a Service Dog for Anxiety?

Just like “standard” service dogs, psychiatric service dogs are trained to help a person accomplish necessary tasks and protect them from harm. How to get a service dog You must meet several criteria to be eligible for a service dog. A dog that has already served as a pet usually can’t be trained later as service dog. To apply for a psychiatric service dog, you will need a recommendation from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional. This means that only a fraction of people who have a mental health disorder are qualified for a psychiatric service dog.

VA Authorizes Health Insurance for Service Dogs

VA Authorizes Health Insurance for Service Dogs

VA Authorizes Health Insurance for Service Dogs

VA Authorizes Health Insurance for Service DogsThe VA Mental Health Mobility Service Dog Initiative authorizes the veterinary health insurance benefit for service dogs of veterans with chronic mobility limitations associated with a mental health disorder. (VA does not provide service dogs; it refers veterans to accredited service dog organizations.) VA provides the veterinary health insurance benefit to eligible veterans with service dogs obtained from these organizations, when it is determined that a service dog is the optimal means for the Veteran to manage the chronic mobility impairment and live independently. For more information, contact your VA mental health provider and visit the VA Guide and Service Dog webpage. For more on veterans benefits, visit the Military.com Benefits Center.

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