Medical Alert System

Which Medical Alert System Is Best for AARP Members?

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Key Takeaways:

  • AARP doesn't state a preference for a specific medical alert brand. However, it does offer attractive member-exclusive discounts on some services. 
  • Medical alert systems are strongly recommended by AARP. They integrate wearable devices with emergency monitoring centers so the user can call first responders or loved ones on-demand, 24/7.
  • There are countless medical alert systems on the market, and all claim to be the best in the business. When shopping, you should consider factors like equipment compatibility, battery life, and monitoring and assistance capabilities. 
  • Some services also offer features like automatic fall detection for an extra fee. 
  • Monitored medical alert systems typically range between $19.99 to $39.99 per month.

Which medical alert system does AARP recommend?

While AARP doesn't state a preference for a particular medical alert brand, it still advocates their use among older adults. 

Falls are the primary cause of injury and injury death for adults ages 65 older. The CDC says one in four older adults suffer a fall each year, and about 20% of falls result in injuries. 

While you can take steps to prevent falls in your home, older adults and their families may find additional comfort in using a medical alert system. These services integrate wearable devices with emergency monitoring centers so the user can dispatch first responders or loved ones 24/7. 

Alert devices are helpful during medical emergencies, home invasions, fires, or any other dangerous incident that could arise in your home or on the go. 

To that end, AARP offers discounts for a few medical alert system brands. Read on to find out more about your options. 

What is the best medical alert system?

Countless medical alert systems are available on the market, and all claim to be the best in the business. Health researched dozens of providers and tested their claims to compile the definitive list of the top medical alert systems

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Medical Guardian

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Topping the list is Medical Guardian, which offers both in-home and mobile systems ranging from $29.95 to $49.95 per month.

Most of the devices, except the Mini Guardian, require no fees for equipment or activation. Device ranges span 600 to 1,300 feet.

When you sign up, you can get a free lockbox, free shipping, and a free month of service. Customers get automatic fall detection for an extra $10 per month. 

Bay Alarm Medical

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Bay Alarm Medical is a close second, offering several mobile device options with innovative features. Prices range from $19.95 to $39.95 per month. You don't have to pay for an activation fee or equipment for the at-home service. The in-home device range spans 1,000 feet. Automatic fall detection is offered for $10 per month.

MobileHelp

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Third, we have MobileHelp, which offers in-home and on-the-go devices priced from $19.95 to $44.95 per month. In-home devices range 600 feet, a bit lower than competitors. Automatic fall detection is available for $10 per month.

How to choose a medical alert system

With so many choices on the market, shopping for a medical alert system can be overwhelming. Here are some key features to keep in mind as you weigh your options: 

  • In-home medical alert systems connect via a landline or cellular service network, such as AT&T. The base station is paired with a mobile pendant or button you can wear around your neck or wrist. Depending on the brand, the in-home device range can be anywhere from 500 feet to 1,300 feet. 
  • On-the-go medical alert devices use cellular networks and GPS tracking to connect customers to emergency operators. 

Battery life 

  • Some on-the-go alert devices may last several years with no recharging, while others only last five days. Battery capacity varies by brand. 
  • Many in-home base stations have a backup battery system that will kick in during power outages. These usually last about 24 hours, sometimes a bit longer.

Equipment

  • Some on-the-go alert devices may last several years with no recharging, while others only last five days. Battery capacity varies by brand. 
  • Many in-home base stations have a backup battery system that will kick in during power outages. These usually last about 24 hours, sometimes a bit longer. 

Monitoring and assistance

  • Availability: Always look for medical alert systems that provide 24/7 monitoring service. Many emergency operators are also multilingual, capable of speaking in more than 100 different languages. 
  • Quality: Make sure the company is listed among the Five Diamond Alert Monitoring Centers designated by The Monitoring Association. To earn the title, companies must commit to random inspections and quality criteria, excellent customer service, job training and certification, reducing false dispatches, and raising industry standards. 
  • Safety: The Underwriter's Laboratory tests medical alert systems for safety and compliance. If the service says it's UL-listed, that means it has been certified through the organization. 
  • Monitored vs. unmonitored systems: Every brand we've mentioned so far in this article offers monitored services in which customers pay a monthly fee for the device(s) and 24/7 emergency operating center. In contrast, unmonitored systems are subscription-free devices that can only call 911 or personal contacts. 

Extra features to consider

  • Many medical alert systems offer automatic fall detection for an extra monthly fee.
  • On-the-go devices may provide mobile GPS tracking for an extra fee.
  • Some devices integrate with other internet-connected services such as Alexa (Amazon) or Find My Loved One (Apple).
  • Many alert systems come with companion mobile apps so friends and family can check on the status of their loved ones. 
  • Services may include fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide monitoring.

Always look for hidden fees or commitments that haven't been prominently advertised on a provider's website. If the service requires you to sign a contract, read it carefully to understand any fees, commitments, cancellation, and return policies.

How much do medical alert systems cost?

Prices vary between providers and plans, but medical alert systems typically range from $19.99 to $39.99 per month, with some plans reaching $49.99. Automatic fall detection services usually cost around $10 per month, on average. 

Discounts for AARP members

AARP offers many benefits to its members, but medical alert systems are not one of them. However, it does offer discounts on a few services: 

  • Members can save 15% per month on the Philips Lifeline medical alert systems for the duration of their subscriptions, along with free shipping and activation. The offer is only available by phone. Read more about it here.
  • AARP members can also get $60 off the GreatCall Preferred and Ultimate health and safety packages when they buy a Lively Mobile Plus or Lively Wearable2 devices, both priced at $49.99. Members can only activate the discount by phone. Read more about the offer here.

Are medical alert systems covered by Medicare?

The Original Medicare program (Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B) does not cover any medical alert systems. But Medicare beneficiaries may still receive coverage through a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part C plan offered by a private insurance provider. 

If you're a Medicare Advantage subscriber, check with your plan to see if it covers all or part of the cost. You may need to pay some yourself. 

Frequently asked questions

What is the best medical alert system?

The top five picks for Health are Medical Guardian, Bay Alarm Medical, MobileHelp, Medical Alert, and GetSafe. Read about them here.

Does AARP recommend Life Alert? 

AARP doesn't recommend any particular brand or service. 

What is the monthly cost of Life Alert?

The most affordable Life Alert option is $49.95 per month, but prices can also be as high as $89. That doesn't include the one-time setup fee, which ranges from $96 to $198.Read our full Life Alert review.

Are there any free medical alert systems?

Some companies offer free shipping and no-cost installation, but no legitimate medical alert system is completely free of charge. If something is advertised as free, it might be a scam. AARP recommends against signing up for "no-cost" medical alert deals. If someone contacts you about free service, you can share your experience on the AARP scams and fraud message board

Will my insurance pay for a medical alert system?

Medicare and Medicaid do not cover medical alert systems. If you have a Medicare Advantage (or Medicare Part C) plan, your insurer may help cover some of the monthly membership costs. Check your plan to see if it offers this benefit. 

Should I buy a medical alert system from Walmart or Costco?

While some medical alert systems are sold at major retailers like Walmart and Costco, you might miss out on exclusive deals and discounts offered when signing up with the company directly. 

Shannon Cuthrell is a journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire and EE Power, among other publications.