How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Medical alert systems are devices that connect you to an emergency monitoring center and your loved ones when you’re injured or need help.
  • You’re connected to an emergency monitoring center through a monthly subscription to the medical alert company you’ve chosen.
  • On average, a medical alert system costs $20-$55 a month, but costs vary depending on the brand, type of system, and add-on features.
Elderly couple calculating and budgeting

Shopping for a medical alert system can get confusing, especially when considering varying costs. Costs don’t vary just by the type of system you select. Many other factors like subscription plans, equipment fees, activation fees, warranties and add-on features affect how much you pay for a medical alert system.

In this article, we explain how the medical alert market works and break down exactly what you’re paying for when you buy a medical alert system.

Why Are Medical Alert Systems So Important?

Wondering why you should buy a medical alert system? Medical alert systems are important for providing you and your family with peace of mind when you’re home alone, and they keep you living independently, longer. Older adults are more at risk for falls and medical complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reports that an older adult falls every second of every day. Having a way to quickly get help in an emergency, even if you lose consciousness, is what sets medical alert systems apart from other devices like cell phones (which require a person to manually dial). Plus, they’re faster and easier to use.

“The rapid response associated with medical alert systems is key to protecting our frail elderly,” stated Jim Dan, M.D., a geriatric clinical advisor and board member of the Senior Helpers, a national in-home senior care provider that helps people age gracefully in the comfort of their own homes. “These devices alert caregivers or a monitoring center for emergency help when activated by the wearer or by sensors.”

Medical alert systems allow you to stay connected 24/7 to a monitoring service and your loved ones when you’re at home or on the go. These systems come with help buttons you wear and push in case of an emergency. Once activated, an operator at a monitoring center will respond and request help from either emergency responders or your caregivers, depending on the circumstances and what kind of help you’ve requested.

senior getting help

Some medical alert systems don’t require you to push a button, thanks to a feature known as fall detection. With fall detection, the devices are equipped with sensors that can detect a fall and call for emergency help that comes to you even if you can’t respond.

In cases of brain injury from a fall or stroke, seconds between onset and treatment can be critical to your overall recovery, and even your survival. A medical alert system can make all the difference in getting timely help.

How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?

A lot of factors go into the overall cost of a medical alert system, so prices vary depending on how you customize your package. To offer you a better understanding of how this all works, let’s begin with a basic background on the types of medical alert systems on the market.

Medical alert systems come in three basic types: at home, on the go, and bundle systems. At-home systems typically come with a base station that has a speaker for two-way communication between you and the operator at the monitoring center. They also come with the help button that you press when there’s an emergency. Help buttons can often be interchanged between a necklace and a wristband to wear around the house. With at-home systems, your device will only work within a certain distance (called a range) from the base station, so you can’t use it when you are away from home and out of range.

Base stations keep you connected to the monitoring center either by a landline connection (where you plug the device into a phone jack) or wirelessly (through a cellular network). These cellular networks are not tied to a cell phone or a home internet plan, so you don’t need either one in order for wireless base stations to work. Payment for the cellular network is included in your monthly subscription to the medical alert company.

On-the-go medical alert systems are called mobile medical alert systems because they work wherever there’s cellular service and aren’t limited to a base station’s range. They’re more ideal for older adults who still drive or regularly leave the house. Mobile devices have a built-in speaker for two-way communication and come either as a smartwatch or a help button with a speaker that can be clipped to clothing or worn on a lanyard as a necklace.

Other than being mobile and better suited to older adults who leave home often, mobile systems’ advantage over at-home systems is the GPS tracking feature, which allows responders to find you wherever you are. At-home systems’ advantages are lower costs (typically), no need to charge a help button’s battery, and help buttons that are waterproof because they don’t have a built-in speaker.

A bundled system is one other medical alert system option. These systems include both at-home and mobile device equipment. They’re ideal for households with more than one person in need of a medical alert system, or for very active older adults who are away for much of the day and need a back-up at-home device while their mobile device is charging. Because they include equipment for both types of systems, bundle systems tend to be more expensive than either system alone.

The type of medical alert system that is best for you depends on your lifestyle and budget, your living arrangement, and how you’ll be using the device.

Now that you have the background on system types, we’ll break down the different charges you’ll notice when shopping for a medical alert system.

Activation and Processing Fees

Activation and processing fees are one-time fees you may pay when you first receive your medical alert system, but they aren’t very common with medical alert companies, especially the ones we’ve reviewed.

The companies we reviewed that do charge activation fees charge around $35. Some companies that charge these fees, like Lively, will waive them as a promotion to get you to sign up.

Instead of an activation fee, some companies may charge a processing fee. This is more likely if you sign up for a month-to-month subscription. In our research, companies like One Call Alert offered to waive these fees only when buyers purchased annual subscriptions. This is a marketing incentive used to encourage you to sign up for longer subscription plans. Processing fees quoted to us were around $50.

Medical alert system companies also do not typically come to your home to install your system. Your system arrives in the mail with instructions on how to activate it. If you have trouble activating it yourself, your company’s customer service team can walk you through activation steps over the phone and help you troubleshoot any issues.

One-time activation cost: $0–$50

Equipment Fees

Equipment fees include the cost of basic devices that make up the medical alert system, are separate from the subscription to the monitoring service, and will vary by company and the type of system you choose.

Equipment fees for at-home medical alert systems cover the base station and a help button that typically comes with both a necklace and a wristband in one system. Some companies also have equipment fees for sensors that can be placed around the house.

Base stations plug into the wall to stay charged but also come with a built-in, back-up battery. Base stations vary in technology. Some can be used to answer phone calls, some are voice-activated and respond when you start speaking to them, some can detect motion, temperature, and air quality, and some allow for GPS tracking within a limited range.

Mobile devices have less equipment but can have pricier equipment fees because of more advanced technology compared to at-home systems. Equipment that comes with mobile devices includes a rectangular box or a smartwatch, both of which have a help button with a two-way speaker.

Bundle systems tend to have the highest equipment fees because they come with more equipment.

Companies charge differently for equipment fees, and some companies don’t charge equipment fees at all. If you buy a medical alert system, you pay an equipment fee. If you rent a system, there is no equipment fee. Some companies only lease models without giving you the option to buy. Others lease only certain models, requiring you to buy most of their models if you want to use them.

If you select a medical alert system that has an equipment fee, you will pay more upfront but will own your medical alert system and be able to keep it even if you end your subscription. Some companies that require you to purchase, rather than rent, their systems will offer a return policy for a specified length of time. You get all or a portion of your equipment fees refunded if you don’t like your system.

For brands we reviewed, equipment fees varied from $20-$350, depending on the company, amount of equipment, and technology within the equipment.

Medical alert companies expect you to pay your equipment fees upfront instead of over a payment period. This can get pricey, but most companies that do charge them will have an option for a system without equipment fees.

One-time equipment cost: $20–$350

Subscription

Subscriptions are the guaranteed cost of your medical alert system — the price you’re paying to have your system connected to a monitoring service without any added features or other fees. Companies may give you a breakdown of subscription costs by the month, but give you the option to pay monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. When you select a longer subscription and pay for more months of service upfront, companies typically offer you special promotions or discounts that helps you save on your overall subscription costs.

Instead of subscriptions for different lengths of time, some companies offer only monthly plans, but their plans already come packaged with features and are priced accordingly. For instance, Lively Mobile Plus offers three subscriptions plans, with more apps and fall detection included in their more expensive subscriptions.

Subscription prices can also vary if you’ve rented or purchased your equipment. Companies may charge a little more in your monthly subscription when you rent their devices.

Based on the brands we reviewed, at-home systems typically come with the cheapest subscription, ranging from $20-$55 per month, mobile system subscriptions range from $30-$50 per month, and bundle system subscriptions range from $40-$55 per month.

Monthly subscription cost: $20–$55

Add-Ons

Add-ons are extra features or devices you can purchase alongside your medical alert system to better tailor it to your lifestyle and safety needs. Price increases come with these add-ons. Both mobile and at-home systems have add-ons available.

As mentioned earlier in our article, fall detection is a standard add-on feature with medical alert systems. When added to mobile systems, your device itself can sense when you fall thanks to sensor technology. With at-home systems, you have to purchase an individual fall detection pendant that works separately from the help button that comes with your system. The sensors in the devices with fall detection automatically call the monitoring center when they detect a fall. This is important in getting you help if you fall and are unable to call for help yourself. Adding on fall detection can cost an extra $5-$15 per month, with most companies we reviewed charging around $10 per month for the feature.

At-home medical alert systems can offer add-on wall or voice-activated wall buttons. Wall buttons are help buttons you mount to the wall that can be used to access help when you’re not wearing your help button, while voice-activated wall buttons go a step further by responding to your voice when you call for help instead of requiring you to hit a button manually. Some companies charge an extra one-time charge for wall buttons, around $40, or charge an extra monthly fee that varies based on how many wall buttons you purchase, typically ranging anywhere from $5-$10 per month.

GPS tracking is another standard feature that comes with most mobile systems, although some companies still charge extra for it as an add-on for around $5 per month. A few companies may even offer it with their at-home systems, but it will only work within a limited range from the base station.

Other add-ons include lockboxes, medication reminders and apps. Lockboxes are a way to safely store your keys for emergency responders and may hang in a lock from your doorknob or be mounted to an exterior wall. Your monitoring center will have access to a code they will provide to responders to enable them to unlock your box and enter your home to help you. Lockboxes are a one-time cost and can range from $30-$40.

Medication reminders and daily check-ins are features where the monitoring service will call you daily to remind you to take your medications or just to make sure you’re OK. Some companies offer a medication organizer with reminders, and others include medication reminders as part of a caregiver app. Reminders and check-ins cost $6-$20 per month. Companies that offer medication organizers that come with built-in reminders charge a one-time fee of $150.

Medical alert companies also offer apps through their devices. Some apps keep your caregivers updated on your activities, whereabouts, and battery status so they know you’re safe. Other apps offered, like MDLIVE, give you virtual access to your doctors and nurses. Companies may include access to apps or caregiver tracking in your monthly subscription or charge for them as separate add-ons. As an add-on, apps typically cost $5-$12 per month.

When negotiating prices, some companies offer to throw in certain add-ons for free in order to earn your business. It’s always a good idea to ask if they’ll do this for you.

Monthly cost: $0–$70 plus any one-time cost add-ons

Support, Repairs, And Replacement

Free warranty and protection plans aren’t common with medical alert systems based on the ones we’ve reviewed, although some do offer a basic manufacturer’s warranty for defective products. If you’re needing more protection, you can purchase one at an additional cost. Warranties are a good idea if you’re worried about damage to your device and don’t want to pay a lot out of pocket for repairs. Companies we reviewed charge anywhere from $1-$7 per month for a protection plan.

Protection plans may cover:

  • Battery and power surge replacements
  • Help button replacements
  • Base system replacements up to a certain number over a period of time
  • Replacement of damaged or stolen equipment

Protection plans may also include discounts when replacing accessories. Read the warranty’s fine print to discover if you are entitled to any such discounts. Also, each company’s coverage of damaged items may only cover damage from certain events, while some companies exclude replacements for certain systems altogether.

Monthly warranty and protection plan costs: $1–$7

Cancellation Fees

Many medical alert companies don’t have long-term contracts, which means that you can discontinue your service whenever you want without cancellation fees. If you’ve paid for a longer subscription, you’ll be refunded payment for any unused months. If you’ve rented your equipment, some companies may not cancel your service until the date the company receives your equipment back, not the day you requested cancellation. Once your equipment is received, some companies will refund you for the days it was in transit.

Even if companies don’t charge cancellation fees, they may charge restocking fees — around $50 — for having to prepare your equipment for the next customer. Some companies may have a two-week or a 30-day return policy, where you won’t owe restocking fees and you’ll get a refund on your equipment if you’ve paid an equipment fee. You may have to pay return shipping fees, though.

If you want to return your device past the company’s free return policy end date, some companies will give you a portion of your money back on up-front equipment costs. Individual companies have their own return policies that you should ask customer service about before purchasing a system.

Senior couple planning and budgeting at home

Conclusion

When you sign up for service with a medical alert company, you have many options and features to choose from that will determine your monthly cost. Companies charge for a subscription to their monitoring services so you have quick and easy access to emergency help when you need it. Other potential charges that vary by company and the type of medical alert system you select are activation and processing fees, equipment fees, add-ons, warranties and cancellation fees. Monthly costs could be as low as $20 or more than $100 depending on how you customize your package. To help cut costs, ask about promotions and discounts when shopping.

Frequently Asked Questions

Medical alert systems helpful for older adults, people with chronic illnesses, or anyone at risk for falls who wants easy access to emergency assistance should they need it. These systems also give family members and caregivers peace of mind when they can’t physically be there for their loved ones.

Bottom Line

In all, you could be looking at monthly bills that exceed $100 depending on which system, add-on features, and warranty you select. You can also find plans for as low as $20 per month. A variety of medical alert packages are available to suit different budgets and lifestyles. If it gives you peace of mind and keeps you living safely at home longer, a medical alert system is a worthwhile investment.

How We Wrote This Article

To find out what medical alert systems cost, we researched:

  • Price of different alert systems, including subscription plans and equipment fees
  • Features and add-ons that make medical alert systems more or less costly
  • Warranties, activation/processing fees, and cancellation fees of reputable medical alert companies
  • Was this Article Helpful ?
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Bass Alex. "How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?" AgingInPlace.org. Sep 23, 2022. Web. Feb 07, 2023. <https://aginginplace.org/medical-alert-systems/cost-of-medical-alert-systems/>.

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Bass A. (2022, Sep 23). How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?. AgingInPlace.org. https://aginginplace.org/medical-alert-systems/cost-of-medical-alert-systems/

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Alex Bass, "How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?," last modified: Sep 23, 2022, https://aginginplace.org/medical-alert-systems/cost-of-medical-alert-systems/.