Many of us have seen the famous commercial where an elderly woman cries: “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”
The need for a medical alert plan may have crossed your mind, especially if you are getting older.
A Money Talks News reader named “Buck” wrote us the following question about these services:
“You may have already reviewed medical alert plans and noted some of the better values, but this topic could be ready for another review. Pricing is constantly changing, and new offers are frequent.”
Buck, this topic takes me back. Years ago after my mom died, my dad considered using one of these things. Or, to be more accurate, my sister and I really wanted him to have something so we would know he was OK. As it turned out, we never got one because he ended up going into assisted living.
What is a medical alert plan?
You probably know how a medical alert plan works: You wear something on a lanyard around your neck. If something happens, you press a button and talk to a dispatcher. They then send whatever assistance you need.
Different plans offer different options. For example, some can know when you’ve fallen without you having to push a button or say anything. That way, even if you’re unconscious, you can still get help.
Obviously, plans like these can be a great comfort when you’re in the position I was, with an elderly loved one living alone.
How much do medical alert plans cost?
To research this story, I went to Consumer Reports for an objective comparison of numerous companies. There, I learned the base price of these plans is roughly $30 a month, but there are options that can quickly jack up the price.
Examples of options at an extra cost include:
- They can call a friend or relative instead of calling a dispatcher. Maybe you would rather have your next-door neighbor alerted, which conceivably could avoid some hassle.
- They can have GPS tracking. Basic plans often cover you only at home. But with this option, your alert can follow you and know where you are.
And those are just two examples: Depending on the plan, there are other options and other costs.
Do your own comparison shopping
As I said, Consumer Reports offers a great guide and plan comparison. The downside: Consumer Reports isn’t free. But I may have a workaround for you.
If you’re not a member of Consumer Reports, your library probably is. So, if you haven’t already, join your public library. It’s likely you can get to read Consumer Reports that way and not pay anything. Call your library and see.
And if you’re worried about having to drive to the library, don’t. If your library offers the option, you’ll likely be able to access it right from the comfort of your own home.
So my advice to you, Buck, is to go to Consumer Reports, check out the various plans and compare them. Also, to learn how you can reduce your chances of suffering a fall in the first place, be sure to read “The Most Common Reason That Older Adults Fall Down.”
By the way, speaking of comparing plans: The company with the famous “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials is called Life Alert. As is often the case with heavily advertised products, that plan was among the more expensive ones.
Buck, I hope that helps answer your question.
I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’m a CPA, and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate.