How Can I Get Free Medical Alert Coverage for My Spouse in 2020?
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.
Medical alert systems can quickly get expensive, especially when you consider costs beyond a company’s monthly or quarterly subscription plans. Some companies charge a rental fee for medical alert systems, while others require seniors to buy compatible devices before requesting service. You may also end up with fees for shipping, installation or activation.
Many married couples are unsure whether they can balance these costs with their existing expenses. You may have a limited budget due to retirement, or perhaps you’re the primary caretaker for your spouse and can no longer work outside of the home. In situations like this, you may feel overwhelmed by the thought of adding another monthly expense to your budget.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can get free medical alert coverage for your spouse. Your significant other may not qualify for all of these options, but they’re worth exploring if you need help with the costs of a medical alert system. Scroll through this guide for different ways your spouse can get a medical alert system for no charge, plus ideas on how they can get subscription fees covered.
Explore Health Insurance Benefits
Some health insurance companies provide coverage for medical alert systems, but unfortunately, Medicare generally isn’t one of them. Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B typically don’t reimburse elderly adults for medical alert systems because neither plan is geared toward these expenses. Medicare Part A primarily covers nursing home costs and hospital expenses, while Medicare Part B provides coverage for doctors’ visits and medical tests. However, seniors may qualify for medical alert system reimbursement from Medicare Part C, a supplemental health plan.
Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage, is a private insurance plan for existing Medicare recipients. Different benefits are available depending on the coverage level you choose, so your plan may not cover your spouse’s medical alert system. Contact Medicare with questions about your plan so you can determine which devices qualify before exploring options from medical alert providers.
It’s generally easier to qualify for a medical alert system through Medicaid than Medicare. That’s because Medicaid offers waivers for seniors who need help purchasing medical devices or other personal care essentials. Options vary by state, but your spouse can apply for assistance from Home and Community Based Services programs, Personal Care Attendant waivers and Money Follows the Person grants.
Money Follows the Person is available in almost every U.S. state, and it often helps seniors transition from institutionalized care to home-based care. Your spouse may be a good candidate for this program if they currently reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility but want to age at home instead.
You can learn more about Medicaid waivers for your spouse by contacting the number on his Medicaid card or reaching out to your local social services office. If your spouse doesn’t have Medicaid yet, you can learn more about this insurance program by visiting Medicaid.gov.
Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs, commonly referred to as the VA, has partnered with LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms and MedEquip Alert to help veterans receive a medical alert system. Both providers offer free medical alert systems for qualifying applicants. Veterans can also request affordable devices from companies that offer discounts for military members.
LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms
LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms offers complimentary medical alert devices for veterans. These devices have fewer features than some of the best medical alert systems available, but they’re still a good option for seniors who need around-the-clock protection. Devices from LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms do not offer access to a 24/7 call center, but seniors can program up to five emergency numbers, such as 911 or a spouse’s number, in case an injury occurs. When a senior presses the help button, a text is automatically sent to all five of these numbers.
Veterans can receive a waterproof pendant from LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms. The company’s wearable pendant comes equipped with automatic fall detection, which means a senior’s loved ones are automatically notified if an accident occurs. This is an essential feature for elderly adults who may be unable to physically press the help button during an emergency. The device uses GPS tracking to help emergency professionals and family members locate a senior in need of help.
MedEquip Alert is another option for veterans seeking a medical alert system. Like LiveLife Personal Mobile Alarms, MedEquip Alert offers a wearable pendant with GPS tracking. Assistance from a 24-hour call center is available, helping seniors receive professional care at any hour of the day. Operators have a personal file for each subscriber, so they can offer responses tailored toward the unique needs of each subscriber.
Elderly adults interested in receiving a MedEquip Alert system must request one from their VA medical provider. Patients should request a device with the order number GSA# GS-35F-202GA if they want a wearable pendant from MedEquip Alert.
Locate a Senior Assistance Agency
Seniors who are unsuccessful in receiving a free medical alert system from their medical provider or the Department of Veterans Affairs can request help from a local senior assistance agency. Many agencies have grants and other forms of financial aid available for qualifying seniors, especially those with low annual incomes or limited resources. You can find out more about these programs by helping your spouse contact the Area Agency on Aging.
Your local Department of Mental Health may also help your spouse access medical alert systems. The Department of Mental Health helps adults with chronic health conditions get the medical care they need via state-funded grants. There is often a waiting list for these grants, so apply as soon as possible if you think your loved one may qualify.
Ask Manufacturers for Help
Some medical alert system providers offer free devices for seniors. However, while these devices arrive free of charge, seniors may still have to pay subscription fees. Explore subscription plans carefully before choosing one, as some companies require a long-term commitment of 1 to 3 years for new members. Look for a plan with a free trial or generous cancellation period in case your spouse decides the device isn’t a good fit.
Also, keep in mind that special features or accessories can quickly increase the price of a medical alert subscription. You may want a plan with a PIN-protected lock box or automatic fall detection, but these special perks often tack additional fees onto your subscription. You should also consider whether you need a caretaker app for yourself so that you can monitor your spouse’s activity or send medication reminders. Some companies provide caretaker apps for free, while others charge between $5 to $10 per month for this benefit.
Consider Tax Deductions
Tax deductions may not initially help you reduce costs associated with medical alert systems, but they may help when you file your federal return. To qualify, you may need a recommendation from one of your spouse’s healthcare providers that states a medical alert system can help with existing conditions or symptoms. An example of this would be if your spouse has Alzheimer’s disease and gets lost or injured easily, so the doctor feels an alert system could help reduce incidents.
You can also claim a federal tax deduction if the Internal Revenue Service considers your spouse’s medical alert system special equipment for essential medical care. You must have an in-home monitoring system rather than just an on-the-go system if you wish to claim this deduction. You must also be able to show that the device is necessary for your loved one’s well-being rather than simply something your spouse wants.
If you plan to claim expenses related to your medical device system, make sure you keep all your receipts. This includes receipts for activation, shipping and the monthly subscription plan. You may also want to keep a copy of a letter from your spouse’s medical provider stating that a medical alert system is beneficial in case you get audited. Keep in mind that tax laws change each year, so speak with an accountant before claiming any deductions for medical alert systems or other devices.
A medical alert system can help your spouse preserve their independence during the golden years. Your significant other can attend medical appointments, shop for groceries or stroll through local parks alone without worrying about the risk of untreated falls or other emergencies. Some devices have hefty fees, but you can find a free or budget-friendly medical alert system by exploring the options detailed above.