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Some Medicare Advantage plans provide free or discounted medical alert systems, but no insurers cover Life Alert because it's one of the most expensive brands.
If your Medicare Advantage plan covers a medical alert system, expect to pay between $0 and $276 for the first year. That's much cheaper than Life Alert, which costs $695 for the first year, including the $95 initial cost and the $50 per month cost for the cheapest plan.
We recommend AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans as having the best coverage for medical alert systems. With these plans, enrollees with qualified plans could get a Philips Lifeline system for free.
Does Medicare cover Life Alert?
Medical alert systems that are similar to Life Alert are sometimes fully covered or discounted with a Medicare Advantage plan.
Coverage for medical alert systems
|Part A (hospital insurance)|
|Part B (medical insurance)|
|Part C (Medicare Advantage)|
|Part D (prescription drug plan)|
|Medicare Supplement (Medigap)|
Medicare Parts A and B, which are administered by the federal government, do not cover Life Alert or any other type of medical alert system.
However, Medicare Advantage plans are administered by private insurance companies, and many of these plans provide coverage for wearable alert devices similar to Life Alert. Some plans will provide a free medical alert system. Other times, you could get a 30% to 40% discount.
Why doesn't Original Medicare cover medical alert systems?
Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover medical alert systems because it classifies the devices as not being medically necessary.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) explains that this type of durable medical equipment is not covered because "these are emergency communications systems and do not serve a diagnostic or therapeutic purpose."
The rule of thumb is that Medicare will cover medically required products such as wheelchairs, ventilators or oxygen regulators if you meet the coverage requirements. But Medicare will deny coverage for assistive products that help seniors age in place. This includes grab bars, fall detection systems or stair lifts.
How does Medicare Advantage coverage work?
Coverage for medical alert systems and fall detection devices is an add-on benefit available with some Medicare Advantage plans as a way for insurance companies to make their plans more attractive to shoppers. This coverage perk is not required by the government's Medicare regulations. As a result, coverage can vary widely between insurance companies.
Some plans provide the medical alert systems for free, while others offer a partial discount. There are also situations where coverage is only available for seniors who have a qualifying health condition.
For companies that only offer a partial discount, keep in mind that any amount you pay toward the alert system will not count toward your Medicare plan's deductible or its out-of-pocket maximum. That's because the benefits for the device are through a discount program rather than medical coverage.
Cost of medical alert systems for the first year
- Full price: $240 to $700
- With a Medicare Advantage plan: $0 and 276
Do Medigap plans ever have discounts for Life Alert?
It's not common for Medigap plans to offer discounts for medical alert systems such as Life Alert.
Usually you'll get the best add-on perks with a Medicare Advantage plan that bundles your coverage rather than through a combination of Original Medicare, Medigap and Part D. However, insurance companies are looking for ways to stand out in a competitive marketplace, and Medigap plans are starting to offer more add-on perks. This means you may start to see more discounts for things like medical alert systems, vision care or hearing aids.
In one example, a free medical alert system from LifeStation is available for those living in California who have Medigap Plan F through Blue Shield of California. But this is rare, and most Medigap providers won't offer any coverage or discounts for wearable alert devices.
Best Medicare Advantage plans for medical alert systems
With an AARP/UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan, most enrollees can get a free medical alert system through Philips Lifeline.
AARP/UnitedHealthcare offers the best coverage available because the free alert systems are available to most policyholders, without restrictions. However, coverage can still vary by plan. You can confirm that you're eligible by checking your Medicare plan's schedule of benefits or by entering your member number into the Phillips online portal.
Medicare Advantage plan
Medical alert system
Cost per month
Minimum first-year cost
|Blue Cross Blue Shield/ Anthem||Lively Mobile Plus or LifeStation (coverage varies by plan)||$0+||$0+||$0+|
|Humana||Philips Lifeline (coverage only only if you have congestive heart failure)||$0||$0||$0|
|Kaiser Permanente||Lively Mobile Plus||$10||$19+||$238|
|Wellcare||LifeStation (coverage only for those who are dual enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare)||$0||$23||$276|
Coverage varies by plan
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Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans both provide medical alert systems for as low as $0, but coverage has more limitations or restrictions.
Humana Medicare Advantage plans will only cover medical alert systems when the enrollee has congestive heart failure. And BCBS coverage varies because each of its divisions is independently operated and offers a different set of benefits.
Kaiser Permanente offers the most straightforward communication about their medical alert system coverage. This transparency about policy benefits is one of the reasons that Kaiser Permanente is the best-rated Medicare Advantage company and has so many satisfied customers. However, policyholders only get a 32% discount on the Lively Mobile Plus system, which is not as good as what other companies offer.
Cost of Life Alert vs. other medical alarms
Even if you don't have coverage for a medical alert system through your Medicare plan, choosing a low-cost provider like Bay Alarm Medical can save you about 65% off the cost of Life Alert.
Life Alert costs $695 for the first year, making it one of the most expensive medical alert systems. Because of these high prices, Medicare plans will rarely partner with this medical alarm provider. Instead, it's more common for insurance companies to offer coverage for providers like Philips Lifeline or LifeStation, which have mid-range base prices.
If you're shopping for a system, you can save money by choosing a lower-cost option.
Full-price cost without Medicare coverage
Cost per month
Minimum first-year cost
|Bay Alarm Medical||$0||$20+||$240|
Discounts and other ways to save
For those who don't have coverage with their Medicare plan, the following discounts can help make medical alert systems more affordable:
- AARP discount on Philips Lifeline: If you're an AARP member, you'll get a 15% discount on the monthly cost of Philips Lifeline and no upfront costs. This means your first-year costs will be $306, saving you $100 off of the retail price.
- AARP discount on Lively: If you prefer the Lively systems, your AARP membership can save you $60 per year off of a service package after the purchase of a device. This calculates to $290 for your first year, a 17% discount.
- Veterans benefits: The VA provides free medical alert systems to eligible vets after the approval of a physician or occupational therapist.
- Long-term care insurance: Some long-term care policies offer discounts for medical alert systems as a part of their support for healthy aging.
- Shop at a discount retailer: Low-cost systems are offered at Walmart and other discount stores. For example, Walmart sells the MOBI Support Button, which costs only $124 per year after the $40 device purchase and $7 monthly fee.
- Apple Watch fall detection: Another option is to use a smart device like the Apple Watch and enable fall detection. If it detects a fall, it will ask if you'd like to place a 911 call, or if you're immobile after a fall, it will automatically dial 911. The system will also notify the user's emergency contacts after the 911 call. However, its fall detection technology is not effective for those in a wheelchair.
Frequently asked questions
Are there free medical alert systems for seniors?
Free medical alert systems are available with some Medicare Advantage plans including AARP/UnitedHealthcare, Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield. You can also choose brands with lower prices than Life Alert, reducing your first-year costs from $695 to $240 or $124.
Does Medicare pay for Life Alert?
A Medicare Advantage plan may offer free or discounted rates for a medical alert system similar to Life Alert. But Medicare Parts A and B, which are administered by the government, don't provide any coverage.
Does AARP pay for Life Alert?
An AARP Medicare Advantage plan may pay for the full cost of a Philips Lifeline medical alert system, which is similar to Life Alert. AARP members who don't have the Medicare plan can also save. Discounted rates of about $300 for the first year are available for both Philips Lifeline and Lively systems.
How much does a Life Alert system cost per month?
Life Alert costs start at $50 per month after a one-time fee of $95. That totals nearly $700 for the first year. Life Alert is one of the most expensive systems, whereas other major medical alert brands cost between $240 and $410 for the first year.
How much does Life Alert cost with Medicare?
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan that covers a medical alert system, your first-year costs could be between $0 and $276 including any one-time fees and the monthly costs. That's much cheaper than the full retail price for Life Alert, which is $695 for the first year.
Sources and methodology
Coverage information is based on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Database. Medical alert cost details were collected from insurance companies, retailers and product companies.