Older Americans have gotten more independent in recent decades. According to the American Psychological Association, just 6% of people over the age of 65 lived alone in 1900, whereas more than 1 in 4 live alone now. While the increased independence can be freeing and essential to many, it also comes with risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 fall each year, with about 25% suffering moderate to severe injuries.
When falls happen, and no one is there to help, older adults can wind up stranded. Medical alert systems are growing both in popularity and importance, providing older adults and their loved ones with increased peace of mind. The problem is, medical alert devices and systems are often expensive.
It’s important to understand exactly what these systems do and how much they typically cost so that you know exactly what it is you’re paying for. Once you have this information, you can decide what system is best for your situation and budget.
Breaking Down the Cost of Equipment
All medical alert systems require at least some hardware or equipment, and the cost of each will vary. Medical alert providers sometimes require a long-term contract, guaranteeing that you stick with their service. Others will allow you to cancel any time but may require you to return the equipment if you decide to go a different direction.
It’s also common practice for some providers to charge you for the equipment upfront. In these cases, you should expect to pay for at least one pendant or wearable device and a base station — though some companies offer slightly modified services that require less equipment. Equipment will likely run you at least $100 if you have to pay upfront and can cost over $500 depending on the system you purchase.
Paying for Subscriptions
The ongoing cost you will pay for any medical alert system is the monthly subscription for service. Professional monitoring services get in touch with you or a loved one if a help button is pushed or a fall is detected. The monitoring center will also send emergency responders if needed. Most base subscription plans will cost you between $15 and $35 per month, though you may see some outliers.
Most providers also include an option for automatic fall detection. Fall detection may be an essential add-on, depending on the user. For active older adults or those prone to falls, fall detection can provide an extra layer of protection if the user is unable to press a button or contact anyone for help. With this added feature, the monitoring center will automatically be notified when a fall is detected. This typically costs between $5 to $10 extra per month.
What Features Are Worth the Price?
While many medical alert systems offer various features, you or your loved one may not need all of them. In terms of getting the most bang for your buck, the following features are worth the extra cost:
Fall Detection — Fall detection is an essential feature for medical alert systems. Falls can be traumatic and lead to severe injury – this feature helps minimize the damage. For about $10 per month, it’s worth the price.
Lockbox — If you don’t have a lockbox, you should consider getting one from a medical alert company. Use them to store essential medical information and documents so they all stay safe in one place.
Caregiver apps/portals — Some services charge an additional fee to access a caregiver portal whereyou can check in on your loved one’s status and receive alerts on any changes, such as their location.
Using Insurance to Bring Down the Cost
Medical alert systems can be expensive. One way to bring down the price is by working with your insurance provider, Medicare, or Medicaid to see if they’ll cover the cost of equipment or a monthly subscription. Whether you can get a medical alert system covered will vary based on your insurance provider and plan. Because coverage is not guaranteed, you should expect at least some out-of-pocket expenses when purchasing a medical alert system. You may have to pay for part or all of the equipment, the monthly subscription fees, and any add-ons you choose.
In general, Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B will not cover the costs associated with medical alert systems. Medicare Advantage, otherwise known as Medicare Part C, may cover some of the costs. Medicare Advantage is meant to serve as a supplemental healthcare plan for Medicare subscribers and provides additional benefits in some situations.
Medicaid often offers assistance to cover the medical alert system’s cost, typically through special programs or waivers. You’ll need to apply to these programs to receive coverage.
To determine if your insurance provider offers medical alert system coverage, contact them directly by calling the phone number on your insurance card. If you know what medical alert system you want to purchase, ask your insurance provider if they cover that specific system. Otherwise, ask what systems they do cover, and see if those systems are a good fit.
Be Careful of Added Fees
As with any subscription service, you may run into some unexpected costs. Additional equipment you may not need or subscription add-ons not applicable to your situation can cause the price of medical alert systems to skyrocket.
You may also get hit with activation or cancellation fees. Any provider that requires a contract is likely to charge you if you decide to cancel before the contract is up. You may also have to send equipment back to the provider or pay for it outright to get out of the contract.
Be sure to explore all of the fine print and ask the medical alert provider about hidden fees before purchasing or signing a contract.
The Most Affordable Medical Alert System Providers
MobileHelp: MobileHelp offers a wide range of equipment, discounts for paying upfront, and an affordable monthly subscription.
Bay Alarm Medical: Bay Alarm Medical has a range of devices available, an affordable monthly subscription, and complimentary spouse monitoring for families.
GetSafe: GetSafe doesn’t require a wearable device, so you’ll save on equipment costs. Plus, it operates on a mobile connection, offering more flexibility.
The Most Expensive Medical Alert System Providers
Aloe Care: Aloe Care is one of the best-reviewed medical alert systems available, but it comes at a steeper monthly cost. The company also has pricey equipment and requires an add-on cost for fall detection.
Medical Alert: Medical Alert prides itself on monitoring, but fall detection costs extra, and plan and equipment options are limited.
GreatCall: GreatCall provides unique devices, but many of the best features require more expensive monthly plans.
The price of medical alert systems can vary. Upfront costs can range from free to over $500. Monthly fees can range from $15 to over $40, depending on the services you need.
Are there cancelation fees associated with a subscription?
Some plans require you to pay a cancelation fee or pay the remaining balance for your contract or equipment. Others have no cancelation fee and allow you to change service at any time.
Do any providers offer affordable options for medical alert systems?
Yes, some medical alert providers have sought to offer affordable medical alert systems that have low upfront and monthly costs while still providing essential services like monitoring and emergency response.
Does insurance cover the cost of medical alerts?
Some insurance providers offer partial or complete coverage for the cost of medical alert systems. However, it will depend on your insurance provider and plan. Call your provider to find out more.
Home Security Experts
The Safety Team is a group of experts that handle provider research, product reviews and recalls to make your home safety and security search as easy as 1-2-3.