How to Get a Medical Alert System for Free

Advice For Seniors

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coverage for medical alert system

There are ways you can stretch your dollar and find discounts or complete coverage for your medical alert system.

Staying independent and safe at home for as long as possible is a common goal for many aging adults. Having peace of mind knowing someone is always there to help in case of an emergency is a common goal for family members of aging adults. The right medical alert system can help both groups (the older adults and their family members) meet their goals. However, with many seniors on a fixed budget, it is no wonder they worry about the cost of having a medical alert device as an additional monthly expense. 

Here are a few things to consider that might help you or your loved one get free or discounted services.

 

What is a Medical Alert System?

Medical alert systems have been around since the early 1980’s. You might even recall the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials that ran during that decade. Essentially, a medical alert system gives users a button to press when they need assistance. When that button is pressed, a trained operator at a monitoring station answers the call quickly and is able to help triage the emergency situation and follow-up with a call to emergency services, if necessary.

Medical alert systems have come a long way since the early 80’s, with today’s features including automatic fall detection technology, GPS location assistance, and caregiver apps so that family members can keep up with their loved one’s health. Some systems even offer health monitoring and reporting to physicians, all while still providing that 24/7 emergency monitoring services that are so important.

 

How Much Does a Medical Alert System Cost?

Medical alert systems vary in cost based on services available, add-ons, and other features. However, it is common for most monitored systems to charge a one-time activation fee, or equipment fee, followed up by a monthly service fee that covers the cost of monitoring. That monthly fee can be as high as $45 per month, but typically averages $25-30.

Additional fees can sometimes be charged for fall detection services, having more than one device or user in one home, or installation fees.

Unmonitored systems, which do not charge a monthly fee and are not always right for most seniors, do not charge a monthly fee. It’s important to note that these systems do not offer monitoring services and the device will only dial 9-1-1 or caregivers if the user is able to request help via the device.

 

Will Medicare Pay for a Medical Alert System?

If you have Medicare Part A or Part B, medical alert systems are not covered. Medicare Supplemental Insurance, or Medigap, also does not offer coverage for medical alert systems.

However, if you have Medicare Part C, you might have a chance of finding coverage for your medical alert system. Part C, or Medicare Advantage, has different plan options and some of them cover medical alert systems. If you are looking to opt into Medicare Part C soon, be sure you find a plan that includes that perk of coverage.

 

Will Medicaid Pay for a Medical Alert System?

Medicaid plans sometimes offer discounts or complete coverage for medical alert systems. It depends on where you live and your eligibility. Review your plan or speak with your caseworker to determine if you are able to receive a free system through your plan. By the way, you might find the phrase “personal emergency response services” or “PERS” is used to talk about medical alert systems, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

It’s also important to note that you might have to fill out additional paperwork or waivers in order to receive reimbursement or coverage for a medical alert system. Your caseworker or representative can supply you with these if you meet eligibility requirements.

 

Are There Specific Programs for Veterans?

If you or your loved one are a Veteran and qualify, you can likely receive a free medical alert system from one of two approved providers. It’s important to know if these systems are monitored or unmonitored, as that might affect your decision. 

If you are not eligible or need a system that has more features than a VA-approved vendor provides, you can likely get a discount by mentioning you are a Veteran when researching medical alert systems.

 

Will Private Insurance Pay for a Medical Alert System?

Some private insurance companies pay for medical alert system fees or a portion of them, but many do not. In order to determine if yours does, review your plan or call a representative to talk about it. While medical alert devices are not considered durable medical equipment, you might be able to find coverage if your physician prescribes one.

 

Where Else Can I Look for a Free or Low-Cost Medical Alert System?

There are some other ways you might be able to get a free or lower-cost medical alert system. Many cities, states, or other municipalities have grant money tucked away to assist seniors throughout their communities. These vary greatly from place to place, and you will likely have to meet eligibility requirements, including income considerations, in order to receive discounts or full compensation for your device.

 

Speak with Senior Assistance Agencies

medical alert device cost

Local resources, like Area Agencies on Aging, can often point you in the direction of resources to discount or cover medical alert device costs.

If you are looking for additional financial resources to cover your medical alert system, begin by speaking with a senior assistance agency. 

  • Most cities, towns, and villages have a dedicated senior services division or person who is there to be a point-person and connect seniors with available resources. Start with them first. Call them to inquire if they know of any grants or funding in your area that might cover your medical alert system either partially or completely. You might have to fill-out additional paperwork, but it is worth it if you receive the compensation.
  • Area Agencies on Aging, or AAAs, are local agencies that often cover entire counties. Their staff is there to not only know about resources to assist older adults, but to point those adults in the right direction in order to receive the support they need to stay safe and independent at home. The AAA near you is also a great place to look for support groups, additional wellness resources, or just good senior health information.
  • The AARP advocates for older adults and has a partnership with some medical alert system companies for a hefty discount on services. As you call around to medical alert system agencies, be sure to tell them if you are an AARP member as that membership might be the key to saving money each month.
  • Your local senior center is also a great place to contact and inquire about medical alert system coverage. They may be able to point you in the direction of a few agencies or nonprofit organizations that offer partial or full coverage of services.

 

Contact Medical Alert Providers

Beyond your local senior assistance agencies, you might find some financial relief by simply speaking to medical alert companies directly. While you can speak about discounts via an online chat, you can also call the company to speak with a representative who might be authorized to take off a certain percentage from your bill.

Ask about discounts for Veterans (if you are one), former educators, service employees, and AARP members. You might also be able to negotiate a discount on installation fees, shipping fees, or other one-time activation fees.

 

How Do I Save Money on a Medical Alert System?

You might find that while you don’t have complete coverage for a medical alert system, you can still find ways to reduce your initial fee or ongoing monthly fee. For example, look for a system that offers a low monthly fee and doesn’t charge for every additional feature. Speaking of additional features, be sure you aren’t choosing a device or plan that has features that are not applicable to your current situation. Remember, you can always add these on as you need them at a later time.

 

Why You Can Trust Us

At Medical Alert Advice, we focus on providing the most up-to-date information about medical alert systems and have done so since 2009. Our readers trust us because we offer unbiased reviews and stay in the loop with the most commonly asked questions. Finally, our comparison tool allows you to look at up to 3 options side-by-side in order to make your best decision.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Any time you can save money on a device or system that provides you peace of mind and safety, it’s a win. Here are some questions that older adults and their family members often ask about finding financial relief for medical alert systems.

Should I choose an unmonitored system in order to save money?

An unmonitored medical alert system can be a good decision for some older adults, but in most cases, it isn’t. Learn more about your unmonitored system to determine if you are comfortable without the benefit of professional emergency monitoring services.

How can I find my local Area Agency on Aging?

Your local Area Agency on Aging, or AAA, is a wonderful resource for older adults in your area. Visit Eldercare.gov to find the resource center that serves your county or area.

How do I know if my system is covered by my VA benefits?

VA benefits currently cover medical alert system fees for eligible Veterans, but only if those systems or services are from approved vendors. Contact your VA caseworker in order to learn more specifics.

How can I find trusted and unbiased reviews of current medical alert systems?

Our review section has in-depth reviews of many medical alert system options. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can use our comparison tool to dive more into the differences between the options you are looking at. 

Do I need a landline in order to use a medical alert system?

No. Most medical alert systems now offer options for landline connections and cellular service connections. When you are doing your research, make sure you know if the system you are looking at offers the connection type you prefer.