You may think it is a simple yes or no question, but the answer to whether Medicare covers medical alert systems is a bit more complicated than it seems. Let’s start with the part that is actually black and white: Original Medicare does not cover medical alert systems. That much you can be sure of, but it’s also not the entire story.
How Does Medicare Work?
Let’s begin with a quick primer on Medicare for older adults not yet enrolled, younger caregivers who may not have experience with it, and people who simply need a review.
“Original Medicare” refers to Medicare Part A, which covers hospital services and supplies, and Medicare Part B, which covers medical services and supplies outside a hospital setting.
Did You Know? Around two-thirds of seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries choose Original Medicare. Approximately one-third use Medicare Advantage.1
Most people supplement Original Medicare with some other form of coverage. One option is a Medigap plan, which is a private insurance plan that supplements Original Medicare and pays for things such as copays and deductibles. Others may supplement through retiree health plans or veterans’ benefits.
A smaller number of older adults substitute Original Medicare with Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C. Medicare Advantage plans, provided through private Medicare-approved insurance companies, must provide everything available in Parts A and B, but also include additional benefits.
What Part of Medicare Covers Medical Alert Systems for Seniors?
If you wondered whether Medicare Part B covers medical alert systems, you wouldn’t be the first. Medicare Part B covers “durable medical equipment,” but that unfortunately does not include medical alert systems. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover medical alert systems. It’s through Medicare Advantage that older adults have the best shot of getting the cost of medical alert systems covered.
FYI: You may want to read our buying guide to help you understand medical alert system pricing and plans. Also contact your insurance provider to find out if you may be eligible for a free or discounted medical alert system.
Although one Medical Advantage plan may cover medical alert systems, the next may not. Much depends on your individual plan, as well as the state in which you live. To get a sense of how many Medical Advantage plans cover alert systems, I went to Medicare.gov and used the Find a Medicare Plan tool. After plugging in my ZIP code, I was able to read a concise summary of each Medicare Advantage plan available in my area. Each summary includes a list of benefits. I looked for a green checkmark in front of the Home Safety and Devices category, and I found only one.
At least in my area, Medicare Advantage providers are more apt to cover extras such as transportation and fitness benefits than medical alert systems. There are a few plans out there that will cover them, but location matters.
If Your Medicare Plan Doesn’t Cover Medical Alert Systems
If you do not have Medicare Advantage or your Medicare Advantage plan does not cover the cost of your medical alert system, there are other ways to save money. First, not all medical alert systems are priced the same. The two major expenses with medical alert systems are the equipment fee (if the provider sells rather than rents the equipment) and monthly monitoring fees. The range of prices is wide, so you can hopefully find a system that fits your budget and your lifestyle.
FYI: Starting monthly fees for at-home systems range from about $20 to $35 per month. Starting fees for on-the-go systems range from approximately $25 to $50 per month.
Aside from finding the most affordable medical alert system for your budget, another way to save money is to take advantage of the enticements many providers offer. Below is a rundown of a few deals we have come across.
- Special pricing for spouses or roommates. Several providers offer huge discounts on monitoring for spouses or a second member of a household. Many of these discounts apply to at-home systems such as LifeFone and LifeStation, but we have even seen good bargains for on-the-go systems like MobileHelp.
- Membership discounts. Through partnerships with some organizations, providers are able to offer member discounts. That includes AARP, VFW, and American Legion. Be sure to ask about these discounts, since the information is often hidden on providers’ websites.
Pro Tip: Some systems are more beneficial than others for veterans. We highlight the advanced features helpful to vets, veteran discounts, and freebies for vets in our analysis of the best medical alert systems for veterans.
- Price locks. If you are on the fence about paying a certain price, it may help to know that the price will not increase a year — or five years — from now. Some providers offer guaranteed price locks for a few years. Some, like ADT Health, even offer lifetime price locks.
- Referrals. Check for referral programs. We have seen a few that will give you a free month of service or other discounts.
- Payment plans. Most providers offer subscribers multiple payment-plan options. If you are willing to pay quarterly, semiannually, or annually, your monitoring fees will usually be reduced.
- Holiday deals. Providers like to switch things up on their websites, and often advertise sales or special promotions. They seem to fall on or around holidays, so check back around the Fourth of July, Christmas, and other holidays.
- Not sure? Ask! Over the course of many reviews, we have learned that the cost of monitoring fees or equipment is rarely set in stone. Ask the customer-service or sales agent if they have any promotions or flexibility on their prices.
The Last Word on Medicare and Other Medical Alert System Discounts
The bottom line: Most Medicare plans do not cover medical alert systems. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, there’s a small chance the cost of your system is covered. Your best bet is to call your provider and inquire. If you’re shopping for a Medicare Advantage plan, do your homework before purchasing. You may get some of the costs covered.
Don’t give up on purchasing a medical alert system if your Medicare plan does not cover the cost. As you can see, you can save money in many other ways and the peace of mind you will get from having a medical alert system’s protection in place is priceless.