Medical alert systems are quickly becoming a must-have among seniors who want to enjoy their independence while taking steps to ensure that help is always available. These small, lightweight personal call buttons come in a wide variety of styles, such as pendants, wrist buttons and even smart watches that connect to either an existing landline phone or a built-in cellular service.
For most medical alert users, cost ranks as one of the most important factors when deciding which system to choose. To help you understand what type of prices you can expect when shopping for an emergency call system, we’ve created this quick overview of typical medical alert monitoring fees and services.
What Costs are Involved with a Medical Alert System?
Each medical alert company sets their own fees, which means there can be significant variances in pricing for medical alert systems and emergency call monitoring services. Here are the most common factors that make up the total cost of an emergency call system:
- Equipment costs
- Activation fees
- 24/7 emergency call monitoring
- Extra help buttons, pendants and devices
- Additional features, such as automatic fall detection and GPS location tracking
- Cellular service (for systems that work on mobile phone networks)
- Special devices, such as medical smartwatches and jewelry-style pendants
- Device protection plans
- PIN-protected lockboxes
- Medication reminders and wellness checks
What Does Medical Alert Equipment Cost?
While you might expect that you’ll have to pay up-front for medical alert equipment, such as an in-home base unit, the wearable help button and any extra wall-mounted help buttons, most companies include these costs in the monthly monitoring fees. These companies lease the required hardware to customers, which means customers need to return the equipment when they cancel their service.
Some medical alert companies charge an up-front fee for nonstandard devices, such as medical alert smartwatches and jewelry-style pendants. These costs can range from $99 and up, so it’s important to ask whether the equipment is leased or if you need to buy the devices before choosing a medical alert provider.
Note that for non-monitored medical alert devices that can be programmed to phone a neighbor, caregiver or 9-1-1, users are required to purchase the equipment outright. Costs for these types of medical alert systems start from under $50 for used devices and can exceed $500 for smartwatches that can be used as a personal call button.
How Much is Installation and Activation?
Installation fees for medical alert systems can range from $0 to $200 or more, depending on the device and the company, so it pays to shop around. Many systems are designed to be plug-and-play, which means users simply need to unpack the equipment and plug the base unit into an electrical outlet.
Some companies do charge for installation, particularly for systems that include extra devices, such as motion sensors. You may also need to pay a one-time activation fee that could be anywhere from $50 to $100, so be sure to ask about installation and activation fees when researching medical alert systems.
What is the Monthly Cost of a Medical Alert System?
Monitored medical alert systems connect the user with a 24/7 emergency call response center when the help button is activated, and these recurring costs tend to be listed on a month-to-month basis.
The lowest-priced medical alert services start at just under $20 per month for basic emergency response services that are connected to an existing landline phone. Plans that include a cellular connection start at about $25 per month, while medical alert services with extra features, such as automatic fall detection and GPS tracking, start at about $30 per month.
If you’re willing to pay for a semiannual or annual monitoring plan, you can expect to save a few dollars off the posted monthly monitoring rates. Keep in mind that cancellation policies vary between providers, and if the equipment is leased, you may be responsible for any repairs or replacement costs.
What Do Extra Features, Such as Fall Detection, Cost?
Automatic fall detection is one of the most common add-on features available to medical alert users, and subscribers can expect to pay an average of $10 per month for this service in addition to their base monthly monitoring fees.
Other add-on’s, such as device insurance, a PIN-protected lockbox, wellness checks and medication reminders, range from $5 to $20 per month. Some companies also give subscribers the option to link extra wall-mounted help buttons for an additional fee, while a few medical alert services let customers add an extra user to their plan at a discounted rate.
How to Determine the True Cost of a Medical Alert System
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, take the time to contact each company that you’re interested in to discuss the total up-front and ongoing monthly cost of the systems that meet your particular needs. Inquire about price protection policies, as many medical alert companies offer a guarantee that their monthly monitoring costs will never increase as long as a customer stays with the company. Also check if there are any discounts offered for clubs and associations that you belong to, such as the AARP or for veterans and military family members.
By carefully researching medical alert system costs, you’ll be able to find a company that offers the right combination of user-friendly devices and features at a price that fits your budget.