Does Tricare Cover Medical Alert Systems?
COVID-19 Update: Since the medical alert industry is considered to be “essential” during the COVID crisis, monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how a medical alert device can help keep you or your elderly loved one safe and connected during this pandemic, take a look at our list of essential products for seniors during COVID-19.
With the number of military retirees in the United States expected to hit 2.21 million in 2029, a significant number of these seniors may increasingly wonder if medical alert systems are covered by Tricare, the designated health care coverage for active military members, their families and retirees. Tricare provides medical benefits to eligible individuals, including health plans, dental care and prescription medications.
Each year, over one in three seniors aged 65 and older takes a fall. As the risk of falling and injury increases due to age or illness, many seniors and their loved ones turn to medical alert system devices as an affordable, nonintrusive solution when a full-time caregiver isn’t available or necessary.
Medical alert system devices are designed to connect seniors directly to 24-hour emergency monitoring centers at the push of a button or through a voice-activated call. Some devices are even able to notify emergency operators anytime a senior falls through the use of a fall-detection device. These potentially life-saving systems often give seniors and their loved ones great peace of mind, and seniors can use them to reach an operator anytime they feel unsafe or sick, suffer an injury or experience a home emergency, such as a fire or break in.
Tricare and Medical Alert Systems
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear, definitive way for all senior military retirees and their family members enrolled in Tricare to receive full coverage for a medical alert system. However, there may be discounts for veterans, private insurance plans or additional options for Tricare participants to help them enjoy the benefits of a medical alert system at a lower cost.
Below, we discuss Tricare and a few options to ensure you and your loved ones are able to obtain a medical alert system that meets your budget and protection needs.
How Tricare Works
Most seniors receiving Tricare are enrolled in the special TRICARE For Life (TFL) program, available to military retirees and their dependents, once they turn 65 years old and become eligible for Medicare. TFL participants must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and B and pay Medicare Part B premiums to receive TFL benefits. Over age 65, seniors are no longer able to enroll in TRICARE programs designed for active military members.
Unfortunately, Medicare Parts A and B don’t cover medical alert systems. While TRICARE For Life TFL covers what it calls Durable Medical Equipment, medical alert systems don’t fall under this umbrella.
One loophole for TFL members could be that they continue to pay for their Medicare Part B premiums and enroll in a Medicare Part C plan (also known as a Medicare Advantage Plan) that may contribute to the cost of Medical Alert Systems as a plan administered by a private company. TFL members who opt to enroll in Medicare Part C should check with each individual Medicare Advantage Plan to learn if the plan covers medical alert systems.
Other Medical Alert System Coverage Options for Veterans
Although it may not be possible for many seniors to receive help paying for their medical alert system device through TRICARE, veterans still may be able to obtain assistance for a certain type of medical alert device through Veterans Affairs. This organization partners with a company called Live Life Personal Mobile Alarms to provide free mobile alert buttons to senior veterans. Seniors should note, however, that while this device is able to contact up to five personal contacts plus 911, it doesn’t connect directly to a professional 24-hour emergency monitoring center.
For those seeking a fully monitored medical alert system, there are a few other options worth exploring to reduce monthly costs. Senior veterans with health savings accounts (HSAs) are able to use their HSA funds toward medical alert systems, as they do count as qualified medical expenses.
Private insurance companies may also cover medical alert systems or provide reimbursements. To obtain compensation for this, certain private insurance companies may request a prescription or letter from your doctor stating the alert system is medically necessary.
If you’re unable to obtain full coverage for a medical alert system through TRICARE, Medicare or private insurance, be sure to check for any available discounts. Some medical alert system companies offer discounts to AARP members, veterans, or simply offer sign-up discounts depending on their marketing purposes or time of year.
Questions to Keep in Mind
When shopping for coverage options or discounts for your medical alert system, here are a few questions to keep in mind to help you find an affordable device that meet your needs.
- If you’re enrolled in TRICARE For Life, is there a Medicare Plan C option in your state or area that you can join for a low cost that covers medical alert systems?
- Does your desired medical alert system company offer any discounts for veterans?
- If unable to obtain coverage or the desired discounts, is there a plan with a low-monthly rate that meets your primary needs? For instance, Medical Care Alert offers an affordable $19.95 per month plan for low-income seniors.