- Original Medicare doesn’t offer coverage for medical alert systems; however, some Medicare Advantage plans may provide coverage.
- There are many different types of systems available to meet your individual needs.
- There are other ways to save on alert systems, including contacting device companies directly for possible discounts.
Medical alert systems allow you get help if you’re alone and have an emergency or injury. Typically, a button on the device sends a signal to the alert company to let them know you need assistance.
Although these devices can provide peace of mind and help in emergency situations, Medicare doesn’t consider them necessary medical devices. Medicare does not usually cover the costs for purchasing or maintaining an alert system.
In this article, we’ll explore parts of Medicare that may offer some coverage for a medical alert system and how to choose one if you’re purchasing it on your own.
Medical alert systems aren’t listed under Medicare’s covered services or devices. This is likely because medical alert systems are not considered “medically necessary” and do not directly improve a person’s health (like a a blood glucose monitor helps you monitor and treat diabetes).
- Medicare Part B covers durable medical equipment, like walkers, wheelchairs, or crutches. Medical alert systems do not qualify as durable medical equipment and therefore aren’t covered.
- Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage is a plan provided by private insurance companies. Some plans offer additional benefits and services that traditional Medicare doesn’t. In some plans, this may include medical alert systems. Check with your plan provider to find out if they provide coverage for medical alert systems.
- Medigap or Medicare supplement insurance helps to offset some of the out-of-pocket costs with original Medicare, such as deductibles and copayments. However, because original Medicare doesn’t cover medical alert systems, Medigap doesn’t cover them either.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you may have all or a portion of the costs covered. However, you only have original Medicare coverage, you will likely need to pay all costs out of your pocket. We’ll look at a few other ways to save on medical alert systems next.
Medical alert systems can have several fees, including costs for purchasing the system, initiation fee, and the monthly fee. Some ways you can get financial help with a medic alert system include:
- Checking if Medicaid will cover costs. If you qualify for Medicaid in your state, some programs may help cover some or all of the costs for a medical alert system.
- Contacting the company for potential discounts. Some medical alert companies will offer discounts based on income, membership in various organizations, or even through a local hospital.
- Checking for tax deductions. Sometimes, you can deduct all or a portion of the expenses related to medical alert systems. Check with a tax preparation professional to see if this applies to your situation.
More cost-saving tips
Medical alert systems can be an extra cost when healthcare costs are already expensive. Here are some other ways you can save on a medical alert plan or system:
- Avoid long-term contracts. If a situation comes up where you won’t be using the system for awhile, such as a long hospital stay, it would be helpful to be able to cancel the plan without penalty. Long-term plans may continue billing you throughout the contract period or charge costly early cancellation fees.
- Look for return plans. Several medical alert plans offer a 30-day trial program. This can help ensure you are able to use the device and that it works well for you before committing to a longer-term contract.
- Call the company directly. Many companies allow customer service representatives to offer discounts or other rebates for additional cost savings.
Medical alert systems may provide peace of mind to you and your family. According to a recent journal article, research indicates that medical alert systems may provide some benefits.
Pros of having a medical alert system
- Reduced anxiety related to the fear of falling.
- Improved confidence in performing everyday activities.
- Enhanced comfort that the system is easy to use.
- Enhanced security knowing help would be available if needed.
However, there can also be downsides to consider.
Cons of having a medical alert system
- The system might be complicated or difficult to use, causing extra stress and anxiety.
- They may not actually affect the time it takes for help to arrive, time spent in the hospital, or recovery time after a fall.
- Initial device costs and monthly fees can be a significant added expense. You or a loved one will probably have to pay most if not all of these fees out of your pocket.
Medical alert systems typically consist of three components. These include a help push button, a communication system that is often in the home, and an emergency response center. Some systems may also offer additional features, including fall detection.
Here is an overview of some of the popular types of systems available today:
- In-home assistants. These may include Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, where you can give a voice command to call a family member. However, many of these or similar devices may not able to call 911. Also, depending on where you fall, the device may not be able to detect your voice.
- Mobile/smartphone systems. Smartphones are a portable way for you to contact help in emergency. The GPS function might also help others locate you. However, for this to serve as an emergency contact system, you would need have it with you at all times.
- Smart watches. A “smart” watch has a wireless communication system that can allow you to make calls through your cell phone or wireless system. Some smart watches will let you call emergency services from your watch. They may also offer GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring as well.
- Two-way communication systems. Two-way communication systems include a bracelet or necklace with a button you can press to communicate with a call center. The call center will assess what kind of help you need and send it to your home. This communication system can only be used in your home because it doesn’t have GPS tracking.
How do I choose the right system for me?
The amount and types of medical alert systems available can be overwhelming. You can start by considering your actual needs, finances, and any conditions you may have. Other things to consider include:
- Do you want GPS technology? If so, you will need a device that operates on a cellular network. If you don’t leave your home often, you probably won’t need GPS technology.
- How tech-savvy are you? If you aren’t good with gadgets, a push-button medical alert system may be easier and more useful in an emergency.
- Do you want a monitored system? A monitored system requires a monthly fee, but it offers the ability to speak to a live operator if you have a medical problem.
- How much can you afford to spend? If you’re keeping a strict budget, a medical alert bracelet might be more affordable than more costly devices and systems.
Narrowing these factors down can help you find the right medical alert system for you.
- Medicare won’t pay for medical alert systems, but Medicare Advantage or Medicaid may help pay for some or all of the costs.
- Contacting a device company directly to ask about discounts can provide cost-savings.
- Think about your needs and those of your loved ones to assess whether a medical alert device is right for you and which one might work best for your situation.