Does Medicaid Cover Service Dogs? | Funding a Service Dog

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  • Does Medicaid Cover Service Dogs? Learn more about Medicaid policies relating to service animals, financing options and how to qualify for a service dog.

There’s a reason dogs are known as man’s best friend. Dogs can help lower stress, improve fitness and increase happiness. Service dogs can do even more for people with mental or physical impairments. These dogs are specially trained to perform specific tasks that can help people live independently. This special training can increase the cost of obtaining one of these animals, so it’s worth asking if Medicaid covers service dogs. 

Does Medicaid Cover Service Dogs?

Unfortunately, Medicaid doesn’t cover service dogs. In fact, no health insurance option covers either the initial cost of getting a service dog or the ongoing food, grooming and vet costs. This is true of both Medicare and private health insurance. This means that people who could benefit from a service dog need to find alternative finance options.

How Can I Get a Service Dog With No Money?

The best option for getting a service dog for free is by working with a charity. There are a number of charities that train service dogs to work with people with disabilities, including Paws With a Cause and Assistance Dogs International.

It’s worth researching the charities, as many only work with specific groups such as veterans or those with a particular disability. Finding the right charity can help you qualify for assistance. As many also have long waiting lists, it can be a good idea to search for smaller, local charities that work with people in your community. 

Other options for financing a service dog include crowdfunding or getting a loan. If you’ve only just started receiving Social Security income, you may receive a large back payment due to the time it takes to process applications. Many people use this lump sum for the initial costs of a service dog. Flexible spending accounts attached to your insurance policy can help you save for a dog — as long as you have a letter from your doctor explaining the medical necessity. 

A final option for a more affordable service dog is to train a dog yourself. However, it can take time to teach a dog to perform the tasks you require, with training often taking more than a year. You also need patience and special knowledge to be able to accomplish the training, so it’s not an option for everyone. 

What Makes You Eligible for a Service Dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service dog as any dog that is individually trained to perform specific tasks to help someone with a disability. To be eligible for one, you must have a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities, such as eating, speaking, walking or performing manual tasks. 

Qualifying for a service dog is as simple as getting written documentation from your health care provider. This needs to state that you have a condition that’s being treated, and that a service animal can help you. When you get a dog, it must be trained to do work that specifically relates to your condition. If you think a service dog can help you, you should start by talking to a healthcare professional. 

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