“Help – I fell and I can’t get up!” How many times have we heard this commercial and seen the poor lady on the floor after she’s fallen? I ignored it for years, but then my mom fell in the kitchen on Christmas Eve while my Dad was out. For almost two hours, she lay there with a broken shoulder and no way to get up or call for help.
At that point, I researched how much Life Alert systems cost seniors per month. Depending on the equipment you choose, Life Alert costs between $95.00 and $198.00 for the equipment, installation and activation. Monitoring runs between $49.95 and $89.95 monthly (a 36 month contract is required). A mobile GPS option costs $20.00 extra per month.
What Is The Monthly Fee For Life Alert?
Life Alert is just one brand of medical alert system. There are several others on the market today. A medical alert system is a lightweight, wearable device that lets the user call emergency services if they fall or have some other type of medical issue.
Life Alert works via a base station and a pendant that the senior wears around their neck. There is also a wristband option.
In addition, the company offers a separate, waterproof HELP button for use in the shower or bathtub. This comes as part of a higher-priced monthly package.
The cost for Life Alert can be difficult to find out unless you call the company directly. They don’t sell online from their website. Talking to a salesperson can be time-consuming and somewhat high pressure. So, since they don’t publish their prices online, we did the calling for you to ensure that you have the most updated information, as of 2019.
As you might imagine, the Life Alert system doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all price. There are separate charges for different components, depending on the type of system your loved one wants and whether they’ll need additional features like a HELP button or GPS capability.
Life Alert Equipment/Activation Fee
To begin with, there is an upfront equipment fee. Depending on the system options you want, Life Alert charges range from $95 to $198. This includes the system, installation, and programming of the equipment. To compare, most of the other medical alert companies charge anywhere between $0 and $95 to activate their system.
Next, to answer how much the monthly fee will be, you need to know how it will be used:
- If the person rarely leaves their home, they may be fine with an in-home system (it has a range of 800 feet). The pendant must be near WiFi in order to track the senior if they go outside, so they likely wouldn’t be covered during a car ride or if they visited a friend who doesn’t have WiFi.
- Is the person active and out of the home frequently? Then they would want the GPS-capable system, which Life Alert assures will provide coverage anywhere “GMS cellular phones operate”. This means they can use the system at home, but GPS can track them whenever they are out. If needed, emergency services would know where to find them, regardless if they are in a car or visiting a friend who doesn’t have cell phone service.
Life Alert Monthly Packages
Life Alert offers three monthly packages. A 36-month contract (3 years) is required for their service. The contract can only be cancelled if the senior requires 24/7 care, goes into a nursing home, or passes away during the term of the contract.
Here are the packages and what you’ll get with each level:
Monthly Package Cost
800-foot range Pendant or wristband
Medical Records Storage
$49.95 + activation fee
$69.96 + activation fee
$89.95 + activation fee
Spouse coverage costs an additional $10 per month.
All three packages have the option of adding the Life Alert app for cellular monitoring.
Life Alert does not offer a senior discount. That being said, you are dealing with a salesperson when you set up the service, so it doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount – you may get lucky.
Details About Life Alert
Below are some details about the benefits and drawbacks of the Life Alert medical device system.
Life Alert Benefits:
- They operate their own nationwide monitoring system.
- When a senior calls for help, their emergency operators will stay on the phone with the person until help arrives.
- The company will store and provide the senior’s medical history to paramedics.
- Life Alert will respond even if there isn’t an emergency, which helps seniors feel safer.
- They will refund 100 percent of all equipment and monitoring fees if the person passes away at home.
- The battery doesn’t need changing for 10 years and the equipment is maintenance-free.
Life Alert Drawbacks:
- They do not provide fall detection devices – you must press the button on the device in order to alert them that you have fallen.
- They are expensive compared to other medical alert systems.
- No trial period is available so if a senior starts the service, they are locked into it for three years even they aren’t happy with it.
Does Life Alert Need Wifi?
The short answer is “No”. The Life Alert products work best with a landline BUT the products can work with Wifi. Also, you should be aware that if the senior is leaving the house, they will need the GPS-enabled version of Life Alert – the in-home system will only track them for about 800 feet.
It’s generally recommended (by the Life Alert company) to use a landline with their product simply because it’s more reliable than a WiFi connection.
Can You Cancel Life Alert?
One thing to know about Life Alert is that you will be locked into a 3 year, upfront contract if you opt for their services. It is difficult to find information on their website about whether you can cancel Life Alert before the contract period has ended because they want to speak with you. After all, by talking to you, they can try to convince you not to cancel!
That being said, they will allow you to cancel your contract under certain, very stringent conditions – like moving into a skilled nursing facility.
For this reason, you may want to look for Life Alert alternatives, such as the ones we have listed in the following section.
Can You Wear Life Alert In The Shower?
Yes, the pendant that everyone is familiar with is wireless and waterproof so it can be worn in the shower. The wireless system in the pendant is connected to a base console unit that is physically connected to your home’s landline. It can also be connected via WiFi to your home’s Internet service.
Is Life Alert Free For Seniors?
In general, a low-income senior cannot get a Life Alert or other medical alert system for free. However, they may be able to get a free phone through the federal government’s Lifeline program if they qualify. They would have this phone to call 911 in an emergency.
The Lifeline program allows one discount per household and may reduce or pay for the senior’s monthly phone bill. A qualifying senior could get either a wireless phone or a landline, but not both.
To qualify, the senior must be on a government assistance program, such as Medicaid, Supplemental Social Security, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. If they aren’t on an assistance program, they must show a pay stub or tax return that proves their income is at or below the federal poverty guidelines.
For more information, visit LifelineSupport.org.
Does Medicare Pay For Life Alert Systems?
Since Medicare covers so many necessities for seniors, you would think something as beneficial as a medical alert system would be covered, right?
Sadly, Medicare Part A (the part that a senior is automatically enrolled in) does not cover Life Alert or any medical alert system. Medicare Part B, which is the optional additional coverage that helps pay for medical equipment also doesn’t cover them.
Depending on the insurance company you choose, if you have coverage under Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage), AARP says you may get some coverage for Life Alert or a similar system. Coverage varies, though, so check with your individual insurance company to see if you have that benefit. NOTE: they may refer to these systems as a Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS). The insurance code is usually: S5161.
If you don’t have coverage through Medicare, you may want to try contacting your state’s Department of Aging Services or the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Ask what benefits they offer and see if they have a program that will help pay the cost of a medical alert system.
Also, a senior may be able to get some of the cost of a medical alert system covered through Medicaid. For more information, visit PayingForSeniorCare.com.
Does The VA Pay For Medical Alert Systems?
The Veteran’s Administration (VA) does not pay for medical alert systems, per se. Instead, they will provide veterans with a free phone dialer. There are several types on the market, such as the LiveLife Mobile Alarm.
These devices are wearable alert buttons like Life Alert’s. The device gets programmed with 3 to 5 phone numbers of the senior’s choice. It will send a text or dial these numbers if the user pushes the button in an emergency.
It’s important to understand that the dialer system is not monitored. It simply sends a call or text to the people the senior designates and alerts them that there is an emergency. It’s up to those contacts to figure out what the issue is and call emergency services.
The VA will pay for the device, but there may still be other costs associated with a phone dialer. For example, LiveLife uses a prepaid SIM card and works off a mobile phone network, so the senior must have a mobile phone which has a monthly cost. Also, a LiveLife user will be charged $9 per quarter to recharge the SIM card (this pays for any calls or texts the device makes).
Contact the Veteran’s Administration for more information.
Is Life Alert Covered By Insurance?
One thing everyone wants to know is if Life Alert is covered by insurance. The short answer is “probably not.”
Although the majority of insurance companies will not pay for them, we recommend checking with the senior’s insurance company to be sure. There are some circumstances in which they may be able to get a reimbursement if a doctor has recommended a medical alert system and will put that recommendation in writing.
Long-term care insurance may also reimburse seniors for a portion of their medical alert system if it qualifies as durable medical equipment (DME) under their policy.
If you aren’t sure that the Life Alert system is for you and you want to consider other options for medical alert devices, take a look at our article Is Life Alert Worth It? There we list a few other alternatives that may work better for you.