Medical alert systems are vital to helping many older adults maintain their independence. As we age, the added peace of mind and protection a medical alert system can offer are quite appealing. Plus, they may help you age in place safely for years to come. However, alert systems can be costly, depending on the brand, payment plan, and design you choose. If you're retired or living on a fixed income, the idea of adding one more monthly bill to your life might feel stressful or even impossible. You might be wondering if Medicare covers the cost of medical alert systems. Let's take a look!
Does Medicare Cover Medical Alert Systems?
Part B of Original Medicare covers durable medical equipment, such as hospital beds, canes, walkers, and blood sugar meters.1 By that definition, you might expect Medicare to cover medical alert systems. Unfortunately, though, Medicare does not cover medical alert systems. Still, that shouldn't stop you from getting a system. There are other ways to pay for a medical alert system, which we'll cover below.
Does Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) Cover Medical Alert Systems?
Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, is private insurance that provides the same essential benefits as Original Medicare, along with some extras.2 Because private insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans, what is included (beyond Original Medicare) varies by plan and provider. Contact your Medicare Advantage company to find out if they cover medical alert systems.
Does Medicaid Cover Medical Alert Systems?
The states administer Medicaid, so the state you live in determines exactly what is covered. Under Medicaid, medical alert systems are known as PERS (personal emergency response services), and they may be covered under programs such as Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS). In some states, such as New York,3 Medicaid covers PERS only as part of an approved home care plan. Other states may have different rules.
You can find your state's profile on the Home and Community-Based Services page for more information. The best way to determine whether Medicaid will cover a medical alert system in your state is to call your local Medicaid office and ask about HCBS availability.
Other Ways to Pay for a Medical Alert System
Fortunately, Medicare and Medicaid aren't the only options for paying for a medical alert system. You can also look into these programs.
- Medigap: Medigap is private insurance that supplements Original Medicare. Unlike Medicare Advantage, it isn't an alternative to Medicare. Instead, it adds benefits to your Medicare coverage. Like Medicare Advantage, whether a medical alert system is covered depends solely on your plan and provider.
- AARP or other senior discounts: The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a massive special interest group focused on the needs of older adults. Many companies, including some medical alert system providers, offer discounts to AARP members. Give your chosen medical alert provider a call to find out if they offer an AARP discount.
- Long-term care insurance: Long-term care insurance is private insurance designed to help with the costs of aging or permanent disability. Not all long-term care policies cover medical alert systems, but many do. Call your insurer for details.
- VA discounts: If you're a veteran, you may qualify for a discount on a medical alert system. Some companies discount the equipment, some give a price break on the monthly service, and some offer discounts on both. It's always worth asking if a veteran's discount is available.
- Low-cost systems: While medical alert systems can be pricey, they don't have to be. If you need only basic monitoring services, you may be able to save money with a low-cost package. Just shop carefully to make sure you're not giving up critical features in the bargain.
Affordable Medical Alert Systems
If you are considering low-cost options, you may want to consider the following companies and plans:
1. Medical Guardian
Medical Guardian offers a wide variety of medical alert systems, with monthly prices starting at $29.95 per month. The Classic Guardian, Medical Guardian's most affordable option, comes with a landline base unit with a 1,300-foot range and 32-hour backup battery. It also features a water-resistant pendant that can be worn as a bracelet or necklace.
MobileHelp is another low-cost option, with plans for individuals and couples. MobileHelp Classic, the least expensive plan, starts at $19.95 per month and runs on a cellular connection. MobileHelp Classic includes a pendant with one help button and a monitoring base. Equipment is included at no cost, as long as you're actively subscribed to the plan.
3. Bay Alarm Medical
You can find Another low-cost option through Bay Alarm Medical. Prices begin at $19.95 per month for basic at-home monitoring. This system uses a landline to give you clear two-way communication. You can choose a wearable pendant or wristband with this plan.
For seniors who are on the go but still want the peace of mind of having a medical alert system, GreatCall offers an option that includes GPS technology. The basic plan starts at $24.99 per month, which connects you with a call center that can pinpoint your location. You'll also pay a one-time equipment fee of $49.99 for this system, but GreatCall offers several seasonal discounts throughout the year, so be on the lookout!