Does Medicare Cover Life Alert Devices?

In this article...
  • Personal emergency response systems can offer peace of mind to seniors living alone. Discover Medicare reimbursement rules for Life Alert and other devices.

Older adults who live alone may benefit from personal emergency response systems such as Life Alert. These devices, which typically include a wearable component, connect users with emergency services or other medical aid through the touch of a button or a voice command, and can offer peace of mind to individuals who have chronic illnesses or are at high risk for falls. Unfortunately, not all Medicare plans cover the cost of Life Alert. Keep reading to find out which Medicare plans may cover these lifesaving devices and how to afford a unit if it isn't reimbursable under your policy.

What Is Life Alert?

Life Alert is a personal emergency response system that’s designed to immediately connect the user to a 24/7 monitoring center in a medical emergency. Trained operators can then dispatch the appropriate lifesaving services.

Life Alert’s medical alert system includes a base unit that can be operated through either a landline or cellular connection, help buttons for high-fall-risk areas such as bathrooms, and lightweight, waterproof pendants that may be worn in the shower or tub. The unit permits two-way voice communication with its dispatchers, and the call is initiated with the touch of a button.

Service includes monitoring from call centers that are located within the United States. The company also offers a help-on-the-go option with GPS functionality that can connect seniors to emergency assistance while they’re on the road.

What Does Life Alert Cost?

Life Alert offers several tiers of service, including a standard in-the-home package, a plan that includes a bathroom button and a full-protection plan, which includes its on-the-go service. Pricing increases with each additional level of protection. Pricing currently starts at $49 per month for monitoring with an additional $19 monthly fee for each level of protection. Users must also pay a one-time fee that starts at $95 and covers shipping, installation and activation of the Life Alert device. Other add-ons, such as spouse monitoring, are available at an extra cost.

Does Medicare Cover Life Alert?

Currently, original Medicare, which refers to Medicare Parts A and B, does not cover the cost of Life Alert or other similar personal emergency response systems because they are not deemed medically necessary.

The device may be covered if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, which is also referred to as Medicare Part C. This alternative to traditional Medicare lets seniors opt for health care coverage from Medicare-approved private companies. Because Medicare Advantage plans may have benefits not available to individuals who have traditional Medicare, some policies may provide full or partial coverage for Life Alert or other personal emergency response systems. Contact your individual insurance carrier for more details about reimbursement under your coverage.

Does Medicaid Cover Life Alert?

Medicaid plans vary widely from state to state, and some policies may cover personal emergency response systems such as Life Alert. If your plan doesn't cover the device you want, you may still be able to get reimbursement under Medicaid by requesting a waiver. These waivers vary by state, and are designed to help beneficiaries with specific needs obtain the care they require.

The following Medicaid waivers may help cover the cost of medical alert systems:

  • Home and Community-Based Services: These waivers help older adults receive the supportive care they need in their home or community so they won't require an institutional setting.
  • Money Follows the Person: This waiver helps seniors get the in-home support they need to remain independent or can help individuals currently in an institutional setting receive the appropriate support so they can transfer back home.
  • State Plan Personal Care Attendant Programs: Although these state-specific programs are designed to cover expenses related to caregiving, they may help with the cost of medical alert devices.

You can find out more about waivers and how to request them by calling the number located on the back of your insurance card or visiting the program's state waivers list for state-specific information. 

Does AARP Cover Life Alert?

No. AARP isn’t an insurance provider and doesn’t cover the cost of personal emergency response systems for its members. However, as a nonprofit organization that assists Americans aged 50 and older with issues that are relevant to their lifestyle, AARP offers a variety of health and wellness benefits, including discounts.

Although a discount for Life Alert isn’t currently listed among AARP’s benefits, another medical alert system does offer savings to AARP members: Philips Lifeline. AARP members may save 15% monthly for the lifetime of their Philips Lifeline subscription, and can get free shipping and activation when ordering this device.

Is Life Alert Covered by Commercial Insurance?

Although reimbursement specifics vary by insurer and individual policy, most commercial insurance companies don’t cover the cost of personal medical alert systems. Some insurers do offer additional health and wellness benefits that may include discounts on medical devices such as Life Alert.

If your physician can attest that a personal alert device would be beneficial for you due to a chronic condition or high risk of falling, it may be worth appealing to your insurance company by phone or written correspondence. Some insurers may make reimbursement exceptions in cases of proven medical need.

Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cover Life Alert?

Long-term care insurance, which is designed to help older adults cover the costs of assisted living or in-home care as they age, may reimburse for devices such as Life Alert. Many LTC insurers consider these units to be durable medical equipment and reimbursement rules fall under the relevant policy guidelines. To find out if Life Alert is covered under your specific policy, contact your insurance agent or a plan representative.

Where Can I Get Help Paying for a Medical Alert System?

Medical alert systems can be a necessity for adults with certain chronic conditions. If you think you might benefit from a personal emergency response system but need assistance paying for one, try the following options:  

  • Check with state or local senior programs. Start with Area Agencies on Aging, which provide advocacy for seniors and can connect you with community resources that may be able to help finance your medical needs.
  • Call the VA. If you're a veteran, check with the local benefits office of the Veteran's Administration. The VA currently partners with two companies to provide medical alert systems: MedEquip Alert and LifeLife Personal Mobile Alarms. Veterans may also qualify for discounts on other popular systems.

Contact the company directly. Many companies offer financial assistance or discounts to seniors who can demonstrate financial need.