Why Get A Medical Alert System
Sometimes a medical alert system can be the difference between living alone and moving into an assisted living facility or in with family.
A monitored system can give you and your loved ones the security and reassurance youre craving especially if youre worried about falls or health events. Life alerts can provide an extra layer of protection. Even If you end up paying out of pocket, the smallish monthly fee may be enough to outweigh the comfort and independence these devices provide.
Should I Buy A Medical Alert System From Walmart Or Costco
While some medical alert systems are sold at major retailers like Walmart and Costco, you might miss out on exclusive deals and discounts offered when signing up with the company directly.
Shannon Cuthrell is a journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire and EE Power, among other publications.
Without Prompt Treatment A Fall Heart Attack Or Stroke Could Cause Permanent Disability
Life alert systems are a popular type of personal medical alert device used by many seniors throughout the world. The basic idea behind these devices is that they function as a help button to be worn on your person at all times and, when pressed, will trigger a call to emergency services. This offers a great extra level of security for seniors who live alone and want to be able to stay in their own homes but are worried about being able to contact emergency services.
But are they covered by Medicare? The short answer is no, but there are options available if youre a Medicare beneficiary. Lets take a look at all of the options available to you.
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Who Needs A Medical Alert System
Most seniors will benefit from a medical alert system. From traditional in-home landline alert systems to the most modern mobile + GPS roaming alerts, theres a medical alert system for everyone. A medical alert button helps seniors stay safe whether they spend most of their time at home, or if theyre out and about staying active.
Getting great value for money is important, and so the cost of a medical alert system is a key consideration when purchasing one.
Medicare Parts A And B Coverage
A medical alert system sounds like it fits into the covered category of durable medical equipment, but Original Medicare disagrees. Medicare Parts A and B do not cover medical alert systems.1
Did You Know: You can save money on a system even if your insurance won’t help out. Some companies weve tested, including Bay Alarm Medical, one of our top medical alert providers, give an AARP discount.
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How Do I Sign Up For The Humana Philips Lifeline
First, you must be enrolled in a Humana Medicare Advantage plan that includes a Philips Lifeline benefit. If you are already enrolled in a Humana plan, call the phone number on your plan ID card to speak to a representative from Humana and inquire about your Philips Lifeline coverage.
If you are not yet enrolled in a Humana plan, contact a licensed insurance agent to compare the Humana Medicare Advantage plans available in your area that cover medical alert systems.
Once you are enrolled in a Humana plan, you can confirm your Philips Lifeline eligibility and establish your account. Ideal candidates for a Philips Lifeline are high-risk individuals who are living independently who stand to gain some peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones.
How We Chose The Best Medical Alert Systems
Although medical alert systems are very similar to each other, we focused on the following three main characteristics:
Price. We looked for companies with prices lower than the market average, or that offer more for your money, in terms of hardware and service. Offers like free equipment or the ability to pay for it in monthly installments were big pluses in our book.
Equipment. Systems with mobile apps, motion sensors, advanced range and more piqued our interest, provided they were paired with a reputation for good customer service and great pricing.
It also gave us an idea about just how frequently these companies are revisiting their catalog and keeping up with the market. Outdated equipment with a simple button might work just the same as more modern-looking ones, but it might indicate the companys not keeping up with current technology.
Reviews and certifications. In order to get an idea about each companys customer service, we read through hundreds of online reviews, and looked for recognition from certain websites and organizations specialized in senior care and monitoring. We also called the companies to see how transparent they were with information regarding pricing and contracts.
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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 , and they may be covered under programs such as Home and Community-Based Services . 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.
Quick Tip: Visit our guide to Medicare and Medicaid to learn more about what these two programs cover and how to qualify.
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.
Does Humana Cover Life Alert
- Some Humana Medicare Advantage plans cover medical alert systems similar to Life Alert. One system called Philips Lifeline is an extra benefit of many Humana Medicare plans.
Many older adults utilize medical alert systems like Life Alert. These devices, which are generally worn around the neck, allow the user to signal for help in the event of a fall or other emergency, and they help enable seniors to more safely live independently and age in place at home.
If you have a Humana Medicare Advantage plan, a medical alert system similar to Life Alert may be included with your coverage.
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Are There Any Free Medical Alert Systems
Some companies offer free shipping and no-cost installation, but no legitimate medical alert system is completely free of charge. If something is advertised as free, it might be a scam. AARP recommends against signing up for “no-cost” medical alert deals. If someone contacts you about free service, you can share your experience on the AARP scams and fraud message board.
How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost
Medical alert systems will vary in monthly cost based on the type of system you are looking for. There are no upfront equipment fees for most medical alert systems. The monthly cost charged by medical alert companies is a monitoring fee, similar to the monthly fee you would pay for a home security system.
While there are outliers on all sides, our editors took a look at the average monthly cost for the top 10 medical alert systems. Here is a breakdown:
- In-Home Traditional: $26.34
- Fall Detection Add-On: $9.00
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Why Do We Need To Have Medical Alert Systems
To fully understand if Does Medicare cover medical alert systems? you should know first the things you will get once you have it. According to an Institution called the National Institute of Aging, statistics showed that more two-out three senior-aged 65 or older fall each year.
There are multiple reasons why it is either health problems, poor eyesight, weakness of the muscle due to old age, prescription medication or maintenance, or alcohol drinking, which are just a few reasons why older people fall.
However, these medical alert systems wont prevent older people from falling, but it may get you that much-needed help in an instant right at your doorstep. Also, most medical alert systems are intended for senior people. Especially for a couple living with their parents, if they are at work, and have a medical alert system, it helps them to have a peace of mind at work knowing that their parents are safe and well.
Costs Associated With Medical Alert Systems
Costs for a medical alert system vary and may depend on the features a person chooses.
Safe Home reports that the average monthly cost for a medical alert system package ranges from $10.00 to $29.99. A person would need to pay additional equipment costs.Consumer Reports shows some common costs per item may be:
- Fall detection: The companys package deal may include this, or it could cost up to $15 per month.
- Mobile GPS tracking: This could cost an extra $19-$50 per month, plus a device fee in some cases.
- In-home landline service: This may have monthly costs ranging $20-$49.
- In-home cellular service: Monthly costs may range from $20-$59.
- Activation fees: These can range from no cost to $95.
Some companies may require a person to sign a contract to use the service for a certain number of months. If someone cancels their contract early, they may have to pay a fee. For this reason, an individual may want to look for a plan without a long-term contract or one with a free trial period.
Because Medicare does not consider medical alert system devices medically necessary, it does not cover them. However, a person may look into other options to help with costs:
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What Other Kinds Of Pers Systems Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover
Some of the personal emergency response systems that may be covered by Medicare Advantage plans include:
- Bracelets or necklacesThese wearable alert systems have a button that can be pushed during an emergency to alert a human monitor or dispatcher. Some devices can even detect when the user has fallen and will automatically dispatch help.
- SpeakerphonesThese devices allow the user to communicate with the monitoring center so the user can describe the situation in more detail and the dispatcher can provide immediate feedback while help is on the way, all without having to reach out for or hold a traditional phone.
- Cellular medical alert systemsPERS devices with cellular capabilities use a GPS to pinpoint the location of the user and send help. These devices are well-suited for seniors who drive or are otherwise mobile outside of their home.
- Activity tracker systems. These systems track a users daily activity with the goal of improving sleeping habits, diet and exercise through monitoring.
If you want to find a Medicare Advantage plan that covers Life Alert, you can speak with a licensed insurance agent to compare available plans in your area.
Explore Medicare Advantage plan benefits in your area
Or call to speak with a licensed insurance agent. We accept calls 24/7!
About the author
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Contact Medical Alert System Providers
Numerous medical alert system providers, including MobileHelp and Medical Guardian, offer discounts for new subscribers after they commit to a subscription. Monthly fees arent free for these subscriptions, but you may qualify for a free device. Call a few different medical alert system providers and ask what options they have for budget-minded seniors. You may discover that monthly service costs are less than you anticipated, even after you factor in fees for shipping or activation.
Watch out for companies that require a long-term subscription if youre on a tight budget. Life Alert is a reputable company known for its top-notch customer service and prompt medical attention, but it requires a 3-year commitment. This isnt ideal for seniors who may struggle with the monthly cost of the subscription, so consider a plan with a monthly or quarterly option instead. You may also want to look for a company that offers a free trial or a fee-free cancellation period.
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Traditional Medical Alert Pendants Or Bracelets
Worn on the neck or wrist, these lanyard-carried alert systems can be worn comfortably and allow you to push a button in the event of a fall or health emergency. You can then speak directly to a central monitoring system from the base unit in your home. If youre unresponsive, rescue services are triggered.
Does Medicare Pay For Medical Alert Systems
COVID-19 Update: Medical Alerts are considered essential devices during the COVID crisis, so monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how these and other essential products can keep older adults safe and connected during this crisis, take a look at our list of 10 essential products.
Fall-related injuries cost Medicare and Medicaid billions of dollars each year, yet many health insurance providers refuse to cover medical alert systems. Medical alert systems offer 24/7 protection for injury-prone seniors, so subscribers can easily access help if an accident occurs. This provides peace of mind for caretakers, but it also promotes independence for elderly adults.
In addition to these benefits, the right medical alert system may save your loved ones life. Some fall-related injuries, such as concussions or strokes, require immediate attention. Seniors who do not receive prompt medical care may experience slow recovery times or permanent physical or mental damage. Some conditions, such as a heart attack, can even result in death if they are not treated quickly.
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Alternative Ways To Pay For A Medical Alert System
Health savings accounts sometimes reimburse for medical alert systems, but these types of accounts are typically linked with an employer-sponsored insurance plan, not Medicare. If a working spouse still has insurance through an employer, this might be an option.
Medicaid, a program for low-income seniors, might cover the costs of a medical alert system, depending on the state and the specific options available in a community. Check into whether home and community-based services or consumer-directed services are available through Medicaid in your state. With these programs, the goal is to help seniors stay in their own homes instead of entering assisted living, and medical alert systems help achieve this goal.
Long-term care insurance is another potential way to cover the expenses of a medical alert system. These plans are available as individual insurance plans, as part of an employee benefit package or through professional trade organizations. Not all long-term care insurance plans cover medical alert devices, so seniors should check with the insurance provider to determine what is covered and what is not.
Tips For Saving Money On A Medical Alert System
Another way to cut the cost of a medical alert system is to employ a little savvy shopping. Here are some easy tips to save money on a medical alert.
- Be clear about what you need. Medical alerts vary widely in the features they offer. Some alert systems are simply a base station with a button or pendant, while others are mobile + GPS units, and others offer more extensive in-home coverage such as additional sensors and wall buttons. Some offer caregiver tracking and neat features such as daily medication reminders and even live chat features with physicians and nurses. Choose a medical alert thats perfectly suited to you, rather than paying for unnecessary additional features you will not use.
- Shop around! Medical alert prices vary a bit, even for the ones that have comparable features. Weve personally reviewed the best medical alert systems, and have plenty of tips for making sure you pick a quality system.
- Look for special offers. Many medical alert providers will throw in a free month or two if you pay for a year of coverage upfront, while others offer discounts on the monthly price for paying in advance. Be careful of contracts though. Do not let any medical alert company lock you into a long term contract.
- As we advise anyone looking for senior discounts, make sure you ask! Some medical alert providers offer special deals and discounts for AARP and other senior membership organizations.
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Medicare Advantage: More Medicare Coverage More Benefits
Medicare Advantage Plans, also sometimes known as Medicare Part C, are private insurance plans that extend and enhance original Medicare coverage.
Beginning in 2017, some Medicare Advantage plans began offering expanded supplemental coverage that would pay for medical alert systems, which include paying for the original equipment purchase and monthly monitoring fees. By 2019, in a span of just two short years, the number of plans offering some form of coverage for PERS alarm systems rose from only 1.2% of Medicare Part C plans to 14.5% of Medicare Advantage Plans, indicating significant interest in these systems among insurers and seniors alike.
And there are good reasons: The longer the wait for help in an emergency, the more significant the consequencesâand the higher the costs of recovery .
Ultimately, the purchase price and monthly monitoring costs associated with incorporating a PERS in the independent living plan of a senior living alone are relatively insignificant compared to potential for the permanent loss of independence, or the cost of a lengthy hospitalization and rehabilitation.
It only takes one unattended, undetected fall to change everything.
What To Know When Choosing The Right Medical Alert System
Price. The average price is between $19.95 and $22.95 for a landline model, and anywhere from $24.95 to $29.95 for a model using a cellular network. Subscriptions with mobile GPS and cellular network devices can start at $29.95, with most hovering around $39.95.
Its also important to keep the upfront cost of equipment in mind. Many companies offer free in-home base units, while others will charge you anywhere from $40 to $100. Mobile devices are more expensive, and most companies charge anywhere between $60 to more than $200, depending on the model.
Devices and plans. Other than the price of the devices, it’s important to keep your loved one’s lifestyle in mind. An in-home unit could be enough for a person thats pretty healthy and mobile, but barely leaves the house. On the other hand, people that often leave the house by themselves will probably need a mobile device that uses wireless service.
If a person needs constant emergency monitoring, consider more advanced options that keep tabs on that person all day, tracking their movement, location and even their surroundings like air quality and temperature.
Devices that allow for easy two-way communication think voice-activated devices and wearable attachments with microphones can also be helpful. This way, you dont have to depend on the other person keeping their phone with them at all times.
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