Reliable and user-friendly medical alert systems with plenty of affordable monthly plans
If you've heard of Connect America, the largest independent provider of medical alert systems, then you may have come across one of their brands, Medical Alert, at your CVS Medical Alert combines reliable technology with simple functions to come to your aid as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For this year's review, I ordered and tested the Home System and Mobile System to see how they hold up compared to other competing brands. I found that the products were high quality and reliable. I like that Medical Alert doesn't charge extra fees or hold you to long-term contracts, and with their 30-day free trial, it's easy to give Medical Alert a test run. Not everything was rosy, though; for instance, the at-home unit could use better audio controls. That said, I'll share my experience with the company, their medical alert products, and the perks and qualms I had.
Clicking around Medical Alert's website is fine, but I recommend calling them for help with choosing a system that works for you. When I called, an agent named Joe answered the call after about 15 seconds. I had a long list of questions, and Joe answered all of them during our chat.
Money Saver: If you sign up for Medical Alert's semiannual or annual payment option, your rate will drop by $3 per month. In addition, with the semiannual subscription, you receive free ground shipping. With the annual subscription, you receive free shipping, a free lockbox, and one month of free service.
I was curious about the free lockbox that's included with the annual subscription. I asked Joe if they sold the lockbox separately, as I was considering the monthly payment plan, which doesn't offer a free lockbox. To my surprise, he said that he could offer it to me for free anyway.
In my experience, chatting with a sales agent has frequently helped me knock off a few excess fees, like shipping or activation; in this case, I ended up with a free lockbox! Keep in mind, deals and discounts are constantly changing, so this offer might not always be available. However, it's worth checking with customer service to see.
After receiving my systems in the mail, which took about a week, my package came with the Home System base unit, a help button with a neckband and wristband, the Mobile System's wearable unit, and its charging cradle.
I began setting up my Home System by unplugging the cord from my landline phone in the living room and plugging it into the port labeled “Wall Jack” on the back of the base unit. Then, I took the telephone cord that came with the system and plugged one end into the base unit's “Phone” port and the other into the back of my phone. The final plug-in was the power adaptor, and I made sure not to insert it into a light switch outlet. Once that was done, I powered on the base unit by sliding the on/off switch to On.
Setup Advice: The landline Home System has a 400-foot range, so it's important to keep the base unit in a centralized area of your home near a phone jack.
A steady green light indicated that the system was on. To ensure that the system was fully functional, I dialed the testing line number and requested my account to undergo “Test” mode for 15 minutes. After following the automated voice prompts, I hung up and pressed the wrist help button. I knew the base unit received and verified the signal by the green light that appeared on my wrist help button after a few seconds.
As for the Mobile System, I plugged the charging cradle into an outlet, and a green light appeared on the charger, which meant that it was up and running. Then, I placed the device onto the cradle, and the power light and signal indicator began to flash before the device announced, “Your device is now charging.” The signal indicator then illuminated green. I left the Mobile System in its cradle for a few hours, and it was fully charged.
To complete the setup, I needed to download the Medical Alert Connect app, which gave me access to the status of my devices, contact lists, and testing schedules. The app also enables location detection for caregivers. Medical Alert encourages customers to test their systems weekly to ensure they are in top form.
Remember Joe, the customer service rep I spoke with? During our conversation, I asked about Medical Alert's product warranty, since it wasn't posted on their website. Joe said that as long as I've signed up for one of their systems, they will send a replacement at any time for equipment that is faulty due to normal wear and tear. For protection against lost, stolen, or damaged equipment, Medical Alert offers a protection plan for an additional $5 per month.
Current Deal: Medical Alert is currently running a sale on their protection plans. You'll pay just $1 per month when you add a protection plan to your subscription!
In addition, all Medical Alert systems include a 30-day free trial. This means you can cancel your subscription and return the equipment within 30 days to receive a full refund. If you cancel after the first month, no problem. Medical Alert doesn't require long-term contracts, so you can cancel your service for a prorated refund at any time.
Now that I've covered my overall experience with ordering and setting up Medical Alert systems, let's take a look at their product lineup and compare system features and prices.
|Medical Alert product||Features||Starting price*||Connection type|
|Home System (Landline)||– Two-way speaker communication via the in-home base unit
– Water-resistant emergency pendant or bracelet
– Base unit with 24/7 professional monitoring
– Optional fall detection
|$22.95 per month||Landline|
|Home System (Cellular)||– Two-way speaker communication via the in-home base unit
– Water-resistant emergency pendant or bracelet
– Base unit with 24/7 professional monitoring
– Optional fall detection
|$32.95 per month||Cellular|
|Mobile System||– 24/7 professional monitoring
– Handheld mobile device
– Black carrying case
– Interchangeable neck and wrist options for help buttons
– GPS location services
– Two-way talk
– Optional fall detection
|$42.95 per month||Cellular|
* Discounts are available for semiannual and annual payment plans.
Overall, Medical Alert's prices are affordable, and the landline model of the Home System is the cheapest package, with plans starting at $22.95 per month. It includes the same benefits as the cellular system, so for older adults who have a landline, need an at-home system, and want to save $10 per month, this landline system is a good option.
My Home System came with a base unit and wearable help button. The landline system has a range of 800 feet between the base unit and the help button. As a point of comparison, MobileHelp, which you can find in our review, has a 1,300-foot range for its at-home landline system.
I live in a one-story home, so I wasn't too worried about my help button being out of range from the system's base unit. To be safe, I walked to different areas of my house to make sure that the connection was strong and reliable. Sure enough, the green light stayed steady after pressing the button several times throughout the house and waiting for three seconds.
FYI: Medical Alert Connect is a free app available to all subscribers and caregivers that you can download on a smartphone or other smart device. It enables caregivers to track an older loved one's location and receive notifications if a loved one has pressed the help button.
My other concern with the Home System was the base unit's two-way speakerphone. While I was in the kitchen, I tested the wrist button to see if I could hear the operator, despite not being near the base unit. I found that the operator's voice was quieter than I'd expected. I have pretty good hearing; older adults who have hearing loss will need to ask the operator to speak up. Volume control for the base unit would be nice, considering 1 in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss.3
While testing the system, I pressed the wrist button, and the base unit responded by saying, “Emergency,” before contacting a live operator. Once I was connected with someone, the unit announced, “Emergency reported.” It only took about 12 seconds for a live operator to get on the line with me. That is a fantastic response time! When I told them that I was testing the system, the operator asked for my name before letting me know that it was no problem.
The Home System offers fall detection for an additional $10 per month (which is in line with what others in the industry charge). If you opt for it, you will receive a special pendant that includes both fall detection and a help button.
The cellular version of the Home System costs $32.95 per month. Because it's $10 more than the landline system, though it has all the same features and benefits, I recommend it only for homebodies who don't have a landline. Otherwise, you can save on your monthly bill with the landline system.
Like the landline system, the cellular Home System comes with a base unit and a help button worn on a neck lanyard or wristband. Unfortunately, the range is not any greater with the cellular system than it is with the landline system – 800 feet. This could be limiting for some older adults, depending on the size of their home and yard. However, if it works for your home, this system is a reliable, straightforward option.
Pro Tip: To compare Medical Alert to other top providers, visit this year's list of the best medical alert systems for seniors.
Setup for the cellular system requires fewer steps than the landline model; you plug the power cube into an outlet that doesn't control a light switch. Once turned on, the system's base unit will announce “System initializing” before stating, “System ready.”
During my chat with customer service, I asked Joe if I needed a specific cellular provider, and he informed me that the system runs on AT&T's cellular network. Medical Alert provides the connection, so you don't need to be an AT&T customer. I'd recommend ensuring that you have strong AT&T coverage in your area before purchasing this system.
You can add a fall-detection pendant to this system for an extra $10 per month. Automatic fall detection is excellent for seniors at higher risk of falls or those who want additional protection. Even if you're unable to press your help button after a fall, this pendant calls for help automatically.
The Mobile System, Medical Alert's only on-the-go option, costs $42.95 per month. I've found that monthly fees for on-the-go systems from other providers typically run between $37 and $40 per month, so Medical Alert is just slightly above the average. You can also add fall detection to this system for an additional $10 per month.
The Mobile System is a small mobile device that can be worn like a necklace. This system also comes with a necklace help button. Because it's portable and you can take it anywhere, I recommend it for active older adults. Whether you take walks, grab lunch with friends, or golf, you'll be protected. The Mobile System contains everything you need – a built-in help button, two-way talk, and GPS location tracking – all in a lightweight and discreet design. The Mobile System can also act as a base unit with a two-way speaker, while the wearable help button can be worn as a bracelet or necklace. The system has flexibility, serving older adults both at home and on the go. And, while most mobile devices have batteries that last a day or two, the Mobile System has an extended battery life of up to five days.
To test the Mobile System, I pressed and held the button until I heard a beep. The device announced, “Dialing emergency response center now. To cancel this call, press and hold the emergency call button for three seconds now.” I waited on the line, and as it rang, the device determined my location before connecting me with a live operator. I let them know that I was testing, and they verified my location and that my system was working correctly before hanging up.
This hybrid system uses AT&T 4G LTE and includes two-way talk, GPS location detection, and optional fall detection. If you opt for fall detection, it will be included on your help pendant.
Like I mentioned earlier, Medical Alert doesn't have a lot of accessories, like some other providers, but they do offer the essentials. We'll take a look below.
Priced at $10 per month, automatic fall detection is a great add-on. It's designed to detect falls even when you aren't able to press the button. If you hit your head and become unconscious or are otherwise unable to call for help, Medical Alert will send first responders if they are unable to get in contact with you.
The Protection Plan ($5 per month) isn't the same as a warranty, since the former covers lost, stolen, or damaged equipment. Knowing that I wouldn't have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a replacement is worth the low monthly rate.
FYI: To give you an idea of the value of Medical Alert's complimentary lockbox, other medical alert providers typically charge between $25 and $30 for this add-on.
When I received my free lockbox with the Home System, I set up the code and contacted Medical Alert's customer care team. After registering the lockbox on my account, they let me know that if they needed to dispatch EMS, Medical Alert would send them the code. That way, first responders wouldn’t have to break down my door.
Overall, Medical Alert's systems offer fast response times, easy setup, and affordable monthly rates. I appreciate the company's seasonal promotional offers, contract-free plans, 30-day free trial, and lack of extra fees. What you see is what you get, and they make it easy to try out their systems without any risk. While I wish Medical Alert's in-home systems had a longer base-to-button range, and the company's product lineup is pretty limited, I was satisfied with the products I tested and would recommend the company for those on a tight budget.
Each Medical Alert system offers three tiers for monitoring subscriptions: monthly, semiannually, and annually. Prices start as low as $22.95 per month and range up to $42.95 per month.
You can cancel your subscription at any time and return the equipment within 30 days to receive a full refund. Equipment received after 30 days will result in a prorated refund.
If you are wearing the fall-detection pendant and fall but do not press the button, after a few moments, the pendant will automatically contact the response center. If you can’t communicate with the operator, a response center agent will call the phone number on your account first before dispatching EMS if you still can’t respond.
Yes, you can purchase additional buttons or pendants without paying for additional monitoring subscriptions.
Contact Medical Alert’s customer care team through an online form on the company’s website or by calling them. You can update the information on your account, including your address.