Things I’ve observed when choosing oxygen providers

New patients may have a hard time understanding the pros and cons

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by Caroline Gainer |

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I recently received a call from my oxygen provider asking if I’d be home the next day. They wanted to bring me a new stationary oxygen concentrator, also known as a home oxygen concentrator.

Durable medical equipment providers (DMEs) rent those of us with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who are on oxygen a home concentrator for five years. Then, we’re eligible to receive a new one. Medicaid reimburses the provider for the first three years of rental fees. After that, any service the DMEs provide is not reimbursed, meaning, neither Medicaid nor I must pay for services until I get a new one.

After five years, a doctor writes a new prescription for the oxygen and concentrator, and a new contract starts with the provider. So we get a new concentrator, and the DME repossesses the old one.

These rules apply for both local and national DMEs. The differences between a local and a national DME include nuances of customer care and the relationship between the company and the customer.

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My public debut tethered to my portable personal oxygen device

The pros of choosing a local DME

The owner of a local DME personally delivered my new home concentrator. He was professional and punctual. He set up the new machine and told me that new oxygen cylinders are available that are much lighter than my old tanks. He told me to stop by their local office and tell the receptionist that I wanted a conservation test.

The test is to see if I can trigger a pulse dose with an oxygen-conserving device. This type of device saves oxygen by releasing it when a person inhales, which is known as a pulse dose. Some people don’t inhale strongly enough to trigger the device to release oxygen.

The owner of the company asked me who my pulmonologist is; when I told him his reaction was positive, and he said I shouldn’t have a problem getting a prescription for the oxygen-conserving device.

I inquired about getting my portable oxygen concentrator, a SimplyGo, fixed because it no longer works. He said he could do that for me. The SimplyGo produces both pulse and continuous flow, the latter of which I need in order to sleep.

He said we would get an estimate for the repairs and then I could decide whether to proceed with the work or not. He noted that he would charge me 1% above the price of fixing the device. I felt this would be well worth not having to deal with the manufacturer myself.

My local DME will also deliver more tanks when I need them, even if it isn’t during their scheduled delivery times. I know their drivers personally and have a great working relationship with them. They check the output and purity of my portable oxygen device when they come to check my stationary device.

The cons

When I travel, I can’t just call my local DME to have them deliver an oxygen concentrator to my room. But a national provider will do that. Examples of national providers include Rotech Healthcare and Nationwide Medical. I’ve heard both praise and condemnation from colleagues who use national providers.

If I need to travel, I can take my SimplyGo with me and use it to sleep, as it provides two liters of continuous-flow oxygen. Alternatively, my local DME will contact an oxygen provider in the area, and I can arrange for a stationary concentrator to be delivered to my hotel room. I’ll have to pay that local provider to rent the machine for the number of days I’ll be staying.

These are some of the things to consider when choosing a DME. The problem is that we patients often don’t know these things when we must choose for the first time, which is problematic because our decision has implications that last five years.

I’m happy with the arrangement I have and don’t mind taking my SimplyGo to provide oxygen overnight. That way, I don’t have to worry about having a concentrator delivered to my hotel room. I also feel better about relying on myself to deliver the oxygen I need to sleep. After all, if I mess up, I know exactly who to blame.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


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