How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost

Advice For Seniors

fall prevention for seniors

Falling can be scary, but medical alert devices can provide peace of mind. Discover more about the costs associated with these services.

A little peace of mind can go a long way for older adults who live at home alone or with a partner. Many seniors live with medical conditions that can increase their risk of falling, and they can feel nervous about completing tasks inside and outside of their homes due to the fear of falling. Medical alert systems are designed to give users the peace of mind they need to continue with their daily life, having confidence they are just a button push away from help if they need it.

It’s no wonder why many older adults are nervous about falling. The Centers for Disease Control reports that about 36 million falls happen in the older adult population every year. That averages out to 1 in 4 seniors falling annually, with the majority of those falls resulting in serious injury or emergency room visits.

Medical alert systems give seniors a way to reach trained professionals who can send out emergency help if needed, but thanks to fall detection technology, the systems are also able to notice when a fall may have happened and respond appropriately. GPS advancements also allow medical alert system professionals to help locate a person in case of emergency so they can dispatch first responders when needed.

If you’ve ever been curious about medical alert systems, or if you have experienced a fall recently, you likely have wondered about the costs involved with these systems. While every medical alert system company has differing costs and various services, we have compiled a list of considerations to get you started during your research.

How Much is Installation and Activation?

There are multiple costs associated with a medical alert system. The first is bringing the actual device into your home and setting it up successfully. Not all medical alert systems require professional installation; some you can set up on your own by following the manufacturer’s instructions or watching a quick video. However, some system providers offer professional installation services to take care of the set-up which can cost an average of $100. If you or your loved one is not comfortable setting up a device on your own, or if it causes you frustration, paying the installation fee might be well worth it.

Once the device is installed, there is sometimes an activation fee to get the services enabled. Again, the costs of activation vary from medical alert company to medical alert company. Some companies charge an activation fee just one time while others cover the cost under a one-time membership or start-up fee.

If you are unsure about installation or activation fees, it is wise to consult with the company before you begin to set-up your equipment. You may end up voiding your warranty if you do not follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Base System and Accessories

Taking time to put medical alert device fees into your monthly budget can ensure you meet your financial and health goals.

Many medical alert systems rely on the base system and accessories, like buttons on a pendant or watch. It’s important to note that not all medical alert systems require a base, which is typically a device that stays in the home. However, if you choose a system that does require a home base device, you will need to factor in that cost.

Many companies charge a minimal amount initially for the device or devices that are a part of the system. These costs are typically well under $200 and often include a lifetime warranty while many systems are completely free of upfront costs. But if you need more than one pendant or device for your situation, you will need to pay for that second device.

Monthly Base Fees

The biggest perk of a medical alert system is knowing that someone is always there to answer your emergency calls or check in on a potential fall. Your monthly fees go to this service. In general, monthly fees are quite reasonable and can likely fit into your fixed income budget. On average, monthly fees to support a medical alert system average below $30 per month but can go as high as $50 per month or more depending on your service plan and type.

You will also need to take into account any fees that go along with maintaining the landline or cellular line that your system is hooked into. Landline fees are typically paid through your telephone or cable provider while any cellular fees are part of your medical alert monthly fees.

Monthly Added Fees and Upgrades

Because not every situation is the same, medical alert systems can be customized to some extent to be most beneficial to you. Most of the major medical alert system companies offer ways to pay for additional services or upgrades that can help you make the most of your investment.

For example, you may want to pay an additional monthly fee in order to get services and a device for your spouse. Other additional services can include GPS support, more buttons or devices in more rooms of the home, and fall detection technology support (if not covered by your base monthly fee).

Remember, you might not know exactly what you need when you first purchase a system and plan. That’s okay. Often, you can upgrade or make additions to your plan easily after speaking with a representative. Contracts are often made month-to-month so that making changes is easier, especially since your needs may change over time based on hospital stays or condition changes. Before you lock into a system and provider, make sure you inquire about how easily they can add or adjust your services.

How Insurance Affects Medical Alert

When it comes to costs, many people automatically think that medical insurance or Medicare will offset some fees when it comes to medical alert systems. Of course, it varies by your provider and your plan. However, there are some things to keep in mind.

Let’s start with Medicare and Medicaid. Generally speaking, Medicare Part A or Part B does not cover fees associated with medical alert systems, services, or devices. Sometimes, depending on the plan and details, Medicare Part C can offset some of the costs associated with medical alert systems. It’s important to note that not all seniors receive Medicare Part C, though. Medicare Part C is sometimes referred to as Medicare Advantage and is essentially a supplemental health insurance plan for seniors already enrolled in Medicare. Seniors must opt into Medicare Part C.

As for Medicaid, some seniors can receive some reimbursement for medical alert systems. However, this reimbursement typically arrives thanks to state-specific waivers or programs. Seniors can apply for those waivers or programs through Medicaid and can sometimes receive guidance for that task through a caseworker who is more familiar with state or city programs.

Finally, private insurance plans vary greatly from person to person. In some cases, your insurance plan may cover some or most of the fees associated with medical alert devices and support. In order to determine if yours does, it is wise to contact your insurance provider prior to contacting any medical alert advice company. This way, you can know any benefits you have as well as any discounts that could be built into your plan.

Other Factors that Influence Medical Alert System Costs

Sometimes, when it comes to reducing or offsetting costs associated with a medical alert system, you just have to do a little asking around. You might be surprised at these avenues which could offer a discount or pick up some of the costs:

  • If you are a Veteran or receive VA benefits, it is wise to talk about any medical alert device support that your benefits may cover. 
  • Call the medical alert device company directly to speak with a representative. During your time, ask about any deals or discounts being offered now or if there are any that will be offered soon.
  • See if your AARP membership gives a discount for medical alert device setup, installation, or monthly service.
  • Call your local Area Agency on Aging or your town’s senior services department to inquire about medical alert system discounts, deals, or pricing options. These organizations stay up to date on ways to offset costs for seniors throughout their service area.

You can also reduce your costs by starting your medical alert system subscription without too many add-ons or upgrades. Remember, if your provider allows for easy changes down the road, get used to the system first before you determine what other upgrades could make life even easier or more peaceful.

Repairs and Replacement

While your medical alert system devices, pendants, and buttons are made to last, they don’t always go the distance. It’s important that you consider this as you are making your initial purchase. Talk with a representative to see if a lifetime guarantee or warranty is included in your initial fee. In these cases, your devices will typically be repaired at no cost to you for most equipment failures.

However, if there is no guarantee on devices, you will need to pay for repairs or replace your device entirely. Depending on the device and the issue, you might have to pay for costs that can be as much as $150 or more.

Cancellation Fees

Not all medical alert system companies require a cancellation fee, but some do. In most cases, contracts are on a monthly basis and cancellation can occur with no fee. However, if you end up in a long-term contract, the chances of you needing to pay a cancellation fee increase. Talk candidly with your company representative about cancellation feels prior to signing any contract, monthly or long-term.

Conclusion

It’s wonderful that today’s older adults have a variety of choices when it comes to medical alert devices. This means that almost anyone who needs it can enjoy the safety and peace of mind that comes with having a system and device. However, lots of options can also mean that choosing one can be overwhelming.

Cost can go a long way in your decision-making process. Be sure the company you go with not only provides the services you need to stay safe at home, but also provides those at a cost you can fit into your budget for the short and long term.