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Are Medical Alert Systems Covered By Insurance?

Oct 31, 2022

By Chrissy Holm
Medically Reviewed by Christopher Norman, MSN, APRN, APHN-BC, GNP-BC
Reviewed by Kathleen Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, Senior Director for NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging
Fact Checked

Key Takeaways

  • Most insurance plans do not cover the cost of medical alert systems, but there may be some options that may cover some of the costs, such as Medicare Advantage. 
  • You can save money on medical alert systems through sales and holiday specials, using health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) to pay for the costs, and area agencies on aging.

Medical alert systems can be lifesaving devices for older adults—these personal emergency response systems can alert emergency authorities when you press the help button or fall (if the device is enabled with automatic fall detection). But medical alert systems aren’t cheap—they generally have starting monthly costs ranging from $20–$45, and often have additional upfront or added services fees. Having insurance coverage to offset those expenses can make the difference for many people.

But does insurance cover medical alert systems like Life Alert and Medical Guardian? Does Medicare or Medicaid pay for medical alert systems?

In this article, our Reviews Team answers some of the top questions related to medical alert systems and insurance coverage. Our goal is to help you learn more and save time while searching for an affordable and top medical alert system.

Why you can trust our Reviews Team’s expert review

2,500+
Hours of Research
1
Surveys Deployed
13
Brands Tested
9
Experts Consulted

Our Reviews Team spent more than 2,500 hours conducting in-depth research on medical alert systems. During our process, we:

  • Engaged in ongoing independent research
  • Consulted with licensed adult caregivers and doctors who specialize in senior care
  • Mystery shopped 13 medical alert system brands
  • Surveyed 1,000 medical alert system users
  • Tested various medical alert systems
  • Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties, such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot

Read more about our medical alert systems review methodology.

Are medical alert systems covered by insurance?

Medical alert systems are generally not covered by insurance, but there are some options that might be available, such as Medicare Advantage and private insurance.

How to find out if your insurance covers medical alert systems

Contact your insurance provider to see if you are covered for the cost of a medical alert system. You can contact your provider by calling the number on the back of your health insurance card or through your plan’s website.

Are medical alert systems covered by Medicare?

Medical alert systems are not covered by Medicare Part A or Part B, but Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage, may cover some of the cost. Each plan varies, so confirm coverage with your provider.

To better understand the different parts of Medicare, Christopher Norman, a geriatric nurse practitioner in New York state, recommends talking with “an eldercare attorney, a representative of your county’s agency on aging, or social workers that specialize in older adult care,” all of whom can can be great resources, he said.

For more information on Medicare plan options, check out NCOA’s Age Well Planner.

Medicare Part A

Medicare Part A covers:1

  • Home health services
  • Hospice and nursing home care
  • Skilled nursing facility care

Medicare Part A does not cover:

Medicare Part B

Medicare Part B covers:2

  • Limited outpatient prescription drugs
  • Necessary medical services
  • Ambulance services

Medicare Part B does not cover:

  • Medical alert systems
  • Dentures
  • Cosmetic surgery

Medicare Part C 

Also known as Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part C includes most of the benefits of Parts A and B, but does not include hospice services or clinical trials.³ A perk of Medicare Advantage, though, is that you can add a private medical insurance plan. 

Private plans have different levels of coverage, so it’s important to compare the services each company covers, what the requirements are for being approved for coverage, and what your shared cost will be. To help you decide which company offers the best coverage, speak to different insurance agents to confirm coverage for your specific needs, such as services that promote health and wellness, and transportation to doctor visits.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D is prescription drug coverage. A majority of medications are covered by Medicare Part D, but it depends on the insurance company administering the plan. All Medicare drug plans generally must cover at least two drugs per drug category, but it’s best to check with your insurance provider to confirm your medications will be paid for.

Why doesn’t Medicare cover most medical alert systems?

“Medicare doesn’t cover most medical alert systems because it doesn’t fit the description of durable medical equipment,” said Paul Miller, a certified public accountant and managing partner at Miller & Company, LLP, in New York. “The laws define what Medicare will pay for, and since [most] medical devices are not included, they’re not allowed in as a medical benefit.”

Are medical alert systems covered by Medicaid?

Medical alert systems are not typically covered by Medicaid.5 But since each state oversees its own Medicaid program, it’s best to reach out directly to your state insurance provider to find out if you can get full or partial coverage. 

Services like lab tests, home health, and medical transportation are often covered by Medicaid.

Does the VA cover medical alert systems?

You might be able to get coverage through your Veteran’s Affairs (VA) benefits if you are a military veteran or spouse of a veteran.6 “Certain Tricare plans cover certain types of [medical] alert systems,” said Norman.

Check with your VA insurance provider to see what coverage is offered based on what your needs are. Tricare is the health care program for uniformed service members, retirees, and their families.

How much do medical alert systems cost?

Medical alert systems cost around $20–$45 per month, depending on the device type (at-home or on-the-go). Other costs can include installation, activation, or equipment fees, but those are normally one-time costs. The cost of a medical alert system can also increase with add-on features and services, such as extra wall buttons, virtual doctor visits, or automatic fall detection.

How to save money on medical alert systems

You can save money on a medical alert system in a few ways: sales and holiday specials, using health savings accounts (HSA) or flexible spending accounts (FSA) to pay for the costs, local sheriffs’ offices, or local area agencies for aging.

Sales and holiday specials

Many companies, such as Bay Alarm Medical, offer discounted rates throughout the year. Once you’ve decided on the alert system brands you like best, watch those websites for sales and holiday specials.

Our Reviews Team analyzed the cost of medical alert systems and noticed sales around Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, and other holidays. You can save up to $35 per month with discounted rates and holiday specials.

HSA or FSA

HSA or FSA funds can help cover the cost of a medical alert system. Louise Norris, a licensed insurance broker in Colorado and analyst for healthinsurance.org, explained which medical expenses are tax-deductible according to IRS Publication 502.7 

Norris pointed out that one of the items listed as eligible for deduction is a “medical information plan.” The IRS describes this as a service that’s paid to keep your medical information in a computer data bank so it can be accessed and shared with medical caregivers when requested. “That is a broad category that will allow you to use HSA or FSA funds to pay the monthly service fee for the medical alert system, since the system will maintain the person’s pertinent medical data on file and transmit it to emergency personnel as needed,” said Norris.

Local sheriff’s office

“Local sheriff’s offices sometimes have grant-funding for free monitoring services,” Norman told us, adding this type of funding varies county-by-county. He recommended calling your local sheriff’s office to see what resources might be available.

Area agencies on aging

Area agencies on aging are city, county, or multi-county agencies that help address the needs of older adults. The goal of these agencies is to help older adults find and choose services that will help them age in place. These agencies are independent of commercial interests and will offer impartial options for a variety of services and resources. 

You can see what options are available in your local area. You can also check out Benefits CheckUp to see additional information on services you might be eligible for.

Best affordable medical alert systems

Now that you know some ways to save on medical alert systems, here are some of the most affordable and well-rated systems for those who are budget-conscious.

  • MobileHelp won “Best All-Around System” in our best medical alert systems review. The company has starting monthly fees of $20, a free trial period, and offers a fall detection button for an additional $10 per month.
  • Bay Alarm Medical was selected as “Best for the Price.” The company has starting monthly fees of $25, a free trial period, and offers a fall detection button for an additional $10 per month.
  • Our Reviews Team chose Lively for “Best Health Services.” The company has starting monthly fees of $20, and offers a fall detection button for an additional $25 per month.

You can also compare other companies’ devices and services, such as Medical Guardian vs. Medical Alert, to see which will best fit your needs. 

As you consider whether a fall detection button should be part of your medical alert package, you might also want to check out NCOA Falls Prevention, a helpful resource for learning the facts about falls, and the steps you can take to stay safe.

Bottom line

Are medical alert systems covered by insurance? Unfortunately, no. While most insurance plans don’t cover medical alert systems, there are some cost-saving options available. From Medicare and Medicaid to HSA/FSA and local area agencies on aging, check these resources to see if help is available to you. 

Frequently asked questions

Have questions about this article? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.

Sources

  1. Medicare.gov. What Part A covers. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-part-a-covers
  2. Medicare.gov. What Part B covers. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-part-b-covers
  3. Medicare.gov. Medicare Advantage Plans cover all Medicare services. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/what-medicare-health-plans-cover/medicare-advantage-plans-cover-all-medicare-services
  4. Medicare.gov. Medicare Part D. Found on the internet at https://www.medicare.gov/drug-coverage-part-d/what-medicare-part-d-drug-plans-cover
  5. Medicaid.gov. Medicaid. Found on the internet at https://www.medicaid.gov/
  6. VA.gov. VA Benefits. Found on the internet at https://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/resources/publications/hbco/hbco_medical_benefits_package.asp
  7. IRS. Publication 502. Found on the internet at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf

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