What is the Cost of Medical Alert Systems
10 minute read|
Updated for November, 2019
When it comes to getting a medical alert system, one of the first things seniors probably think about is the cost. No matter how important it is to have the system, the concern about how you’re going to afford it is crucial to make sure you are prepared in a medical emergency. The problem is there are a lot of different costs associated with your new medical alert service that go above and beyond the base price you might be thinking of.
With these systems, you don’t need installation at all, but there are also systems that will take a little more work to get them working properly.
Things like installation, the system itself, monthly fees, add-ons and any repairs and replacement needs are going to be important, and will impact the overall cost you have in choosing a system. So, let’s take a look.
The very first thing you’re going to pay for is going to be the installation. Not every system requires you to pay for installation, but the ones that do could cost upwards of $100 just to get the system put in by a professional. Look at the requirements with your system. Some are considered a plug-and-play system, which means that you unpack the box, plug it in, and have no to little extra steps for setup before you have the panic button at the ready. With these systems, you don’t need installation at all, but there are also systems that will take a little more work to get them working properly.
With some of these systems, installation is not required but it is offered. If it’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort to get the emergency response system or medical alert device going you may want to pay the additional cost so you can make sure you’re up and running as quickly as possible. You also may end up voiding any kind of warranty that’s offered if you don’t take advantage of installation services from the company. Sometimes these are done by in-house technicians or they’re going to be done by a local contractor wherever you happen to be.
Finally, some installation services are required by the company rather than just recommended. These are typically offered when installation is going to be more effort or at least more difficult to understand. The costs however, can be quite expensive, which makes it a bit of a drawback when money is an object. Still, you’ll be able to rest assured that your system is installed properly and is going to work, plus there’s generally a warranty on the installation in case something doesn’t work properly or gets damaged during the process of installation.
Total Cost: $0 – $200, one time
Base System and Accessories
The first part of the cost that you generally think about is cost of the physical equipment that you’re going to be using. This includes the base system (if your system uses one), the pendant/wristband, and any additional accessories that are included in the original price. This doesn’t include add-ons and extras that you can purchase at an additional cost. For some emergency response systems, there is no cost for these items and you get them included for free at the cost of the first month. These are generally the systems that you lease rather than buying from the company, so the cost of the lease is part of the monthly cost (which we’ll get to in a minute).
With systems that you actually buy, you may have to spend a little more. The average cost for the equipment itself is around $50, though different systems may come in a little lower or a little bit higher. Keep this initial cost in mind when you’re looking at medical alert systems because it’s a start-up cost you have no choice but to pay. Don’t forget that this is only a one-time cost and you won’t have to pay it again once you’ve set up the system and some will allow you to pay the cost over the span of several months as you pay your regular monthly bill, which can make it easier to make the payment.
Total Cost: $0 – $50, one time
Monthly Base Fees
Here’s where we start getting into the guaranteed cost because obviously your medical alert system is going to cost you something each month. The actual cost is going to depend on a lot of factors including the system you choose and the upgrades that you want. Here, however, we’re only going to talk about the base fees and costs. For the cheapest of plans, you’re going to spend approximately $20 per month. For the more advanced or higher cost plans, you’re going to have a starting cost somewhere closer to the $40 – $50 range.
This is where you really need to focus on your budget because this is the recurring part of the cost and it’s not going to change as you move on with the service. Look at your current budget and think about how much you can afford each month. Once you do that you’ll be able to narrow down which systems you can actually afford. Then you’ll be able to work from there, figuring out which features each system provides you with and what you want within that budget as well.
When you’re planning the monthly base cost look at what’s included as well. Some systems provide you with only the bare essentials like the landline service or landline service, a base and a single pendant/wristband. Others may offer something a little bit better like fall detection, a lockbox, medication reminders or access to doctors at any time. Remember, we’re talking about base fees at this point, which means the bare minimum plan on any system you get, not the upgraded plans that offer more equipment or features.
Total Cost: $20 – $50, monthly
Some brands offer lifetime warranties on their products while others may only offer a year or even less.
Repairs and Replacement
Then we come to the repairs and replacement costs. This is another cost that most people don’t even think about. When was the last time you purchased something and thought about when it was going to break down or when it was going to stop working entirely? Maybe you bought a warranty at the store but after that you probably forgot all about it and just expected whatever it was to work and do it properly for a long time. The same is true with medical alert systems. You assume it’s going to last a long time, but repairs can be needed at any time.
Depending on the alert system that you purchase you could end up with excellent warranties or you could end up with not so great warranties. Some brands offer lifetime warranties on their products while others may only offer a year or even less. Some don’t even offer much of a warranty and instead give you product protection at an extra cost. The cost of product protection is generally around $5 – $20 and that’s another per month cost, which is something to keep in mind because that extra cost adds up too, and you’re not getting extra services for it. If something happens to your system, however, it can pay for itself.
If there is no warranty on your products or if you don’t get the product protection, you could be responsible for the costs associated with sending the product back, the repairs needed, or a full replacement. These costs could range from $20 – $150 depending on the cost of shipping, the repairs needed, and the cost of the unit that you have chosen. This is where costs really start adding up and it’s a cost that you just can’t predict, which makes it a whole lot more difficult to plan for when you’re budgeting. Rather, you just need to think about it as a possibility and perhaps have a contingency in place.
Total Cost: $0 – $150, one time (hopefully)
So, what if you decide to cancel your plan early? You might think you can just get a refund and walk away from the system, but that’s actually not the case with some. Many systems require you to ‘give notice’ which is a way of saying that you’re locked into the system for at least a set amount of time. For example, one medical alert company requires 30 days’ notice and doesn’t charge you a cancellation fee if you give them that notice. What that means, however, is that you’re actually giving them another month of payment when you didn’t want to. It’s not technically a cancellation fee, because you’re still getting service for that month as well, but it’s paying for something you didn’t want.
Other services don’t charge a cancellation fee at all but they do charge ‘restocking fees’ for the products that you return at the end of your use. These could be around $50 just for them to get the package with your base and pendants and put them back on the shelf for someone else to use when they sign up. They don’t consider that a cancellation fee either, but we definitely do and we think it should definitely be included in this section so you know what you could be looking at when it comes time to cancel your plan.
Finally, some companies don’t allow you to get any money back at all. These plans tell you that if you’ve prepaid for the system for any length of time you have to use the system for that length of time or you simply lose the money that you’ve paid. That can be expensive if you prepay for a quarter or a year and then decide that you don’t like the system or that you don’t need it. There are sometimes exceptions to this rule, as some companies will let you out of the contract if you prove that you’ve entered into a nursing home or other facility, but in general they try to keep your money. If you prepay for a decent length of time, you probably assume that you’re going to get a better deal—and you will as long as you don’t cancel early.
Total Cost: $20 – $50+, one time
In all, you could be looking at monthly bills that exceed $100 a month if you’re not careful about the service you select and the add-ons you put with it, but you can get out of the monthly payment circle with only $20 – $30 if you’re really looking to save some money. Keep in mind, however, that additional costs and one time fees can start to add up as well and should definitely be considered when you look at anything.
No matter how important it is to have the system, the concern about how you’re going to afford it is crucial to make sure you are prepared in a medical emergency.