Access Wireless and Safelink are a few names of the lifelines that give discounted phone service to the underprivileged in society. Quick question, though, do these programs have free cell phones for seniors on Medicare?
Well, while there are so many government-funded assistance programs across the country, Medicare isn’t exactly one of them. The insurance program, yes, is available through the federal government, but you or your spouse/ child must have paid for it.
Don’t Confuse Medicare with Medicaid?
Medicare and Medicaid are two government programs that are seemingly similar in names and medical benefits. However, how they cover medical bills totally differs, both in the source of funds and eligibility requirements.
For instance, Medicaid is a government-funded assistance program. It usually targets low-income individuals of every age, whereby it provides medical expenses in full or with small co-payments in a few instances.
Although a federal program, Medicaid is under the state and local governments. You’ll notice the benefits vary from state to state, with some better.
Also, as a government assistance program, Medicaid gets its funding from the general funds raised through state taxes. Such taxes include those of the citizen income, plus narrow and broad-based sales taxes.
Furthermore, Medicaid is one of the programs that automatically qualifies you for a free touchscreen government phone. Thus, beating Medicare where some people have a chance to get a discounted phone and others do not.
Essentially, Medicare is a health insurance program, which primarily provides medical costs for seniors 65 years of age. In some cases, it also serves people under age 65 but has certain disabilities, kidney failure, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But even within either of the four categories, you still won’t qualify for Medicare benefits without passing the eligibility requirements.
Different Ways to Qualify for Medicare Benefits
The federal government doesn’t provide the Medicare benefits from its Treasury Funds- collected through income and sales taxes. Instead, the Medicare funds come from your “Trust Deposit” that you’ve paid during your working days.
The Social Security Administration describes the said working days as a period of ten years or at least 1.5 years for the disabled. And during this working period, you’ll have accumulated the credits needed to qualify you for the social security benefits, including Medicare insurance.
In other words, the credits you earn over the working years count towards your qualification for both Social Security Benefits and Medicare. But, of course, you’ll have to wait before you can get Medicare since the Social Security benefits come earlier (at age 62).
The disabled will also have to be receiving the Disability Benefits for at least twenty-four months to qualify for Medicare coverage before age 65. Only the individuals with permanent kidney failure or Lou Gehrig’s disease will qualify for Medicare early without having to wait for the two-year activity on Disability Benefits.
The social security benefits are also available to the survivors of a person who has paid for his “Trust Fund”. And since Social Security taxes also count towards eligibility for Medicare, the other ways you can get the free health coverage include:
- Your spouse (who’s alive, dead, or separated) receives or qualifies for the Social Security Benefits
- You’re a dependent parent of a (deceased) child who has worked and paid Medicare (social security) taxes
How to Get a Free Phone on Medicare
As I’ve highlighted above, Medicare isn’t exactly a government assistance program like Medicaid. It’s only available to someone who has worked or survives through the assistance of a spouse/ child who paid for the social security taxes.
As such, the medical coverage is even available to seniors who have an average or higher income. Also, this means Medicare alone won’t qualify you for the free government phones as with Medicaid. Why is that?
Safelink and other lifeline providers usually target the underprivileged who can’t afford the local prepaid and postpaid phones. And, therefore, you’ll only get a free phone with Medicare if you have a low income (at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines). Or else participates in a government assistance program like Food Stamps, FPHA, SNAP, SSI, Tribal Head Start, Veteran Survivors Pension, or even Medicaid.
Indeed, you can get both Medicare and Medicaid at the same time, provided you satisfy the financial and non-financial eligibility requirements for the latter.
The SSI/ Social Security/ Medicare Benefit
Supplemental Security Income (or SSI) is one of the government assistance programs that qualify one for the lifeline phone. Just as the name, the benefit is under the Social Security Administration, but the federal government finances it through the Treasury Fund.
Furthermore, the Supplemental Security Income program serves seniors and the disabled that have limited income or resources. The said limited resources include the things one owns, and have to be $2000 (for an individual) or $3,000 (as a couple).
In other words, you automatically qualify for Medicare if you’re receiving both SSI and Social Security benefits. And since SSI is a Federal assistance program, you qualify for a free phone with the lifeline providers in your area.
The Best Free Cell Phones for Seniors on Medicare
Overall, there are over twenty lifeline companies that give free government phones across the country. But just like with the paid carriers, the right free option for you depends on your location and monthly usage.
|Lifeline Phone Provider
|Monthly Talk Allowance
|Monthly Text Allowance
|Monthly Data Allowance
|T-Mobile/ Verizon/ AT&T
|25GB (High Speed)
|35GB (High Speed)
|Unlimited (High Speed)
|15GB (High Speed)
|14GB (High Speed)
|Q Link Wireless
|28GB (High Speed)
|10GB (High Speed)
|10GB (High Speed)
|T-Mobile/ Verizon/ AT&T
|8GB (High Speed)
|12GB (High Speed)
|22GB (High Speed)
Safelink is one of the best free government phones for seniors and younger adults alike. It’s a brand of TracFone Wireless, Inc., which Verizon has bought off the América Móvil in 2021.
But despite the new acquisition, Safelink is still operating on the three major networks (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile). However, the company has said there will be a “managed transitioning” to Verizon for those customers using SIM cards from other networks.
As for the offerings, the Safelink phone currently comes with 25GB of high-speed data, plus unlimited talk and texting. The included data allows tethering with other devices, then the talk minutes allow calls within the U.S and Canada + Mexico.
Note: the featured monthly allowances are a lifeline + ACP (affordable connectivity program) combo. After the ACP discontinuance, your Safelink phone service will revert to the regular allotments of your area- varies from state to state.
Assurance Wireless Phone
Assurance Wireless is the first closest competitor of Safelink in the lifeline business. It used to be a brand of Virgin Mobile (a subsidiary of Sprint) but became T-Mobile’s after the T-Mobile-Sprint merger in 2020.
In fact, the carrier has been transitioning its customers to the new T-Mobile network for the last twelve months. Hence, one of the reasons their webshop for phones is inactive at the moment.
But similar to Safelink, Assurance Wireless phone is currently offering unlimited talk and texting within the U.S. The data allowance is slightly higher, 35GB, but the option to call Canada & Mexico requires a $10 or $15 international plan.
Cintex Wireless Phone
Although not a common topic, Cintex Wireless is one of the best free government phones for someone who browse a lot. It gives the eligible customers unlimited everything lifeline plans, including the talk minutes, texting, and data.
Yes, the allotments comprise a combo of the lifeline and ACP benefits, but it’s better than what many other providers have.
Different from most lifeline carriers, Cintex Wireless has also listed on the homepage a list of free phones that they give you when you join. And that includes decent models like Apple iPhone 7/ 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8/ S9, or Google Pixel 3XL/ 4XL.
StandUp Wireless is another lifeline provider you can consider when looking for a free cell phones for seniors on medicare. Of course, the data allowance isn’t as high as the other three above, but many seniors aren’t online much. The talk minutes matter in most cases, and the carrier usually offers an unlimited allowance for each month.
But if you do browse, StandUp Wireless is one of the few lifeline companies you can get a free Sky Devices government tablet. Thus, enjoying a smoother experience on the big screen.
Q Link Wireless
Q Link is another lifeline provider you can get a free cell phone and service for domestic use. It claims you’ll get unlimited everything lifeline plans, including data, text, and voice minutes. But the said high-speed data isn’t exactly unlimited as they throttle heavy users upon reaching 28GB.
Nonetheless, the Q Link free phone does include domestic roaming when outside its carrier network, T-Mobile. Then, you can also get a free 8-inch tablet through the ongoing ACP program.
American Assistance doesn’t have the best offer on data allowance, but you can get up to 10GB on a lifeline + ACP combo. After the ACP ends, the free data allowance will revert to 6GB for Californians and 4.5GB if in other states.
Moreover, the American Assistance phone gives you unlimited text messages and voice minutes for domestic use. Then, they now run on only T-Mobile (used to operate on Sprint and Verizon). So, coverage isn’t available everywhere.
Similar to Safelink, TAG Mobile has partnered with all the three major carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile) to use their network. So, you get to apply for the free phone service with what works best in your area (currently available in nineteen states).
As for the said service, the TAG Mobile phone gives you 8GB of high-speed data, plus unlimited talk & text every month. But 2GB of the high-speed in the 8GB is for the ACP benefits. So, your service will revert to the standard plan with 6GB of data when the ACP benefits are no more.
If the AT&T network works best in your area, you could try Feelsafe Wireless and see if it has what you need. It offers a lifeline-only program with 4GB of high-speed data and unlimited talk + text. But you can also apply as a lifeline + ACP combo, where the data high-speed data allowance is 15GB/ month.
Although AT&T ranks second on network coverage, Feelsafe Wireless is only available in ten states at the moment. So, check and make sure it’s available in your location before applying.
How can a senior citizen get a free cell phone?
A senior citizen can get a free cell phone through Medicare by participating in the Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid program. You can also get a free phone with other federal assistance programs or have an income at or below the poverty guidelines.
Can you get a free phone if you’re on Social Security?
Yes, indeed, you can get a free phone if you’re on social security and the total benefits qualify as a low income. You’ll also automatically qualify for a free lifeline phone if on social security and receive a federal assistance benefit.
How do I qualify for a free phone?
Basically, you must participate in a government assistance program or have proof of low income to qualify for a free phone. The same rule applies even when on Medicare since the medical coverage isn’t exactly an assistance program.
Whether it was yours or a friend, you can see there are a lot of lifeline providers with free cell phones for seniors on Medicare. But Medicare alone isn’t enough to qualify you for the free government phone, considering even average and higher earners also have the medical coverage.
If you want to get the free phone while on Medicare, you must also prove to the lifeline provider you have a low income. Or else you have been participating in a federal assistance program, such as Medicaid, Veteran Survivors Pension, Supplemental Security Income, et cetera.
But even after you apply and qualify, you still have to remember lifeline phones have their limitations.
For instance, most providers usually mail you low-end devices with 1GB/ 2GB RAM and 8-32GB internal storage. Then, the provided high-speed data is deprioritized (drops in speed during network congestion) and also will be capped at 5Mbps in most cases.