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 one’s 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.
That’s why many elderly adults rely on around-the-clock coverage from medical alert systems when they find affordable options. Unfortunately, some devices are expensive, and some companies require a long-term commitment. Some seniors request assistance from their insurance companies, but they don’t always have success getting reimbursed for medical alert systems.
Does Medicare Cover Medical Alert Systems?
Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B typically do not reimburse seniors for medical alert systems or the monthly premiums associated with these devices. Medicare Part A focuses on covering hospital-related expenses for elderly adults, including nursing home care, in-home health services, and hospice treatment. It generally does not provide coverage for everyday medical expenses.
Medicare Part B covers services deemed medically necessary, such as blood tests, X-rays, prescription medications and doctors’ visits. You can also use Medicare Part B for approved medical equipment and preventative services, but you still may not have much luck getting a medical alert system covered.
Some seniors apply for Medicare Advantage, also known as Medicare Part C. This supplemental health plan provides private coverage for existing Medicare subscribers. There are multiple plans available, each with different coverage levels. You may have success getting reimbursement from Medicare Part C for medical alert systems if you can find a way to show having one is medically necessary. Unfortunately, not all seniors have the financial resources for Medicare Part C, so you may find it helpful to explore other funding options for medical alert systems.
How Can Seniors Pay for Medical Alert Systems?
Some seniors have Medicaid and Medicare coverage. These seniors may qualify for Medicaid waivers that cover medical devices, including medical alert systems. Waivers vary by state, but possibilities include Personal Care Attendant programs, Home and Community Based Services programs and Money Follows the Person programs.
Nearly all 50 states offer Money Follows the Person, so Medicaid subscribers may want to try applying for this program first. Contact your Medicaid provider for more information, or reach out to your city’s health department or social services agency.
Financial Assistance Agencies
Senior centers sometimes offer grants and scholarships for seniors who need medical devices. You can find these programs by contacting the Area Agency on Aging or the Department of Mental Health. You can also contact agencies geared toward helping seniors with specific health conditions or backgrounds, such as a center for dementia or an agency that helps veterans. Contact 211 via telephone for help finding senior-friendly assistance agencies.
Medical Alert System Providers
MobileHelp, Bay Alarm Medical and Medical Guardian provide free medical alert systems for new subscribers. However, members must commit to a long-term subscription first, usually for at least one quarter. You still must pay monthly fees for monitoring and special features, but there are typically no costs for shipping, activation or cancellation.
Contact the medical alert system provider that interests you and ask if they offer assistance programs or special offers for new seniors. You may find that obtaining a device is more affordable than you initially realized.
Are Medical Alert Systems Worth the Price?
Medical alert systems help many elderly adults feel safe and confident in any setting. If an accident occurs, seniors can press a button and request help. Some medical alert devices even have automatic fall detection, so emergency workers can pinpoint a subscriber’s location with GPS tracking and rush there to provide appropriate medical care.
Life Alert saves a life every 11 minutes, and other medical alert system providers also have a lengthy track record of helping seniors. Shelling out money for a monthly subscription may seem expensive, but consider the medical expenses associated with an untreated fall or a fall that doesn’t receive prompt care. You may find that a medical alert system is worth the price, especially if it helps you or a loved one reduce hefty health-related expenses.