Medical alert systems are life saving devices for many seniors, especially those who have a high risk of falling or who manage a chronic illness like diabetes. Technology makes aging in place a whole lot safer, so it's no wonder so many seniors and families choose to invest in a medical alert system.
Depending on what features you need or want, a medical alert system really is an investment. Features like a caregiving app, GPS technology, a smartwatch, or two-way communication can drive up the cost. With some systems, you need to pay upfront for the device and then pay for a monthly plan. With others, the cost of the equipment is calculated into the monthly plan.
Either way, the expense is one that many seniors hope their insurance provider will cover. However, even though medical alert systems support your well-being, getting coverage for one isn't always easy. We'll take a look at your options below.
Does Insurance Pay for Medical Alert Systems?
Insurance coverage for medical alert systems varies. The majority of health insurance providers don't cover these devices or services, but some do. Long-term care insurance is more likely to cover medical alert systems, but this varies by provider and plan. To find out if your insurance company offers coverage, you can:
- Visit the plan's website to review covered services
- Call the number on your insurance card to speak directly to a representative.
Below, we'll review some common types of insurance that seniors have and their medical alert system coverage.
Does Medicare Insurance Pay for Medical Alert Systems?
Let's first look at Medicare coverage for medical alert systems.
Medicare Parts A and B Coverage
A medical alert system sounds like it fits into the covered category of durable medical equipment, but Original Medicare disagrees. Medicare Parts A and B do not cover medical alert systems.1
Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) Coverage
Seniors who need a medical alert system for medical reasons might be able to get it covered by a Medicare Advantage Plan.2 Some Medicare Part C plans cover 100 percent of the cost, while others only cover a portion. You'll need to talk with your insurance provider to find out how much they cover and for what medical reasons, and for how long.
The types of medical alert systems a plan might cover include:
- Alert bracelets or necklaces
- At-home speakerphone systems
- Cellular medical alert systems with GPS technology
- Activity tracker systems
Does Medigap Pay for Medical Alert Systems?
Medigap, also called Medicare Supplement Insurance, does not cover medical alert devices.3 Your Medigap plan only covers some Original Medicare out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles. Since Original Medicare won't cover medical alert systems, Medigap doesn't either.
Does Long-Term Care Insurance Pay for Medical Alert Systems?
Seniors with long-term care insurance have the best chance at coverage for a medical alert system. Although these plans vary, most will cover all of or at least a portion of the cost of a medical alert system. Why? Because long-term care insurance exists to help you as you age!
Check directly with your long-term care insurance provider for more specifics about reimbursement. Asking these questions can help:
- Is a device, plus the monthly monitoring fee, covered, or just the device?
- Do I need any documentation from my doctor to receive coverage?
- What's the lifetime reimbursement for a medical alert system?
Does the VA Pay for Medical Alert Systems?
The VA partners with two private companies to offer free medical alert systems to veterans: LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms and MedEquip Alert. Let's take a look at each one.
LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms
LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms makes a lightweight, waterproof device with a wearable pendant help button. The help button is programmed to call or text up to five personal contacts when pushed or when the fall detection feature is activated.
Unlike other medical alert systems, LiveLife doesn't connect to a 24-hour emergency monitoring center. However, you can set 911 as one of the designated contacts. Eligible veterans can receive a system for free through their VA medical provider.4
MedEquip Alert's wearable medical alert device is also free for eligible vets.5 Unlike LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms, this device connects directly to a professional 24-hour monitoring center using a two-way speaker.
When you need help, simply press the button on the device. The operator can talk with you, access your location, and review your personal information to determine what help you need. That might mean contacting your emergency contact to check on you, or it could mean dispatching emergency services.
Veterans can order a free MedEquip Alert device using one of three easy ways:
- Call 844-HELP-808 to speak directly with a MedEquip representative.
- Go to your local VA hospital and request the device.
- Talk to your primary care doctor or occupational therapist and request the device.
If you choose option two or three, be sure to ask them to order the MedEquip Alert with Monitoring using GSA# GS-35F-202GA.
Other VA Assistance for Medical Alert Systems
The two devices described above only have basic features. Veterans who want or need more features such as a caregiver tracking app, wall-mounted call buttons, spouse coverage, or medication reminders might prefer choosing another company.
For some, that may mean you need to pay out of pocket. But, if you have TRICARE for Life as part of your Medicare Part C plan, the plan might supplement some or all of the cost of a system from a different provider. Review your specific plan details to learn more about the available coverage.
Want to learn more about the different types of medical alert systems before making a purchase or talking to your insurance provider? Watch the video below. Jeff Hoyt, our editor-in-chief, will walk you through the details.