When I was newly diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, I made a huge mistake while getting my first CPAP machine. This is the story of how I got my first CPAP machine and I’m hoping others will benefit by avoiding the costly mistake I made as I started my treatment.
In 2014 I was a newlywed, and my wife was having a hard time sleeping. She’s a naturally light sleeper, so loud noises tend to wake her up fairly easily. Our apartment was on a quiet street in a quiet town, and the only real noise was my snoring– my extremely loud snoring.
On the day I finally mentioned my snoring to the doctor, he referred me to a Pulmonary Specialist, someone who specialized in breathing. Years later, I found out that a number of different doctors can write a prescription for a CPAP Machine (a type of Sleep Apnea treatment), it doesn’t have to be a Pulmonary Specialist. A person can get a Sleep Apnea diagnosis and a prescription for a CPAP machine from a General Practitioner, Sleep Doctor, Lung Doctor, an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist– just to name a few! Even a Dentist can write a prescription for a CPAP machine!
The Pulmonary Specialist I checked in with provided me with a home sleep study. That night I hooked the electrodes up to my chest and put on the blood-oxygen monitor. I fell asleep and the next day I mailed the test kit to the Sleep Lab. It was easy, and the results were very telling.
Shortly after my sleep study, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor. I was told I had mild Sleep Apnea, and that I would be getting my CPAP machine soon.
What is a CPAP Machine?
For those that are new to Sleep Apnea, “CPAP” is an acronym that stands for “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure”, and is a medical device used to treat Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea is caused by the tongue and muscles of the throat relaxing during sleep, partially or completely blocking the airway. A CPAP machine works by providing pressurized air to the throat and into the lungs. The pressurized air helps keep the airway open and makes it possible for the person to breathe normally at night.
Benefits of using a CPAP machine can be lower blood pressure, better sleep, more energy and less chance of death or stroke during sleep. When they told me I would be getting a CPAP machine, I was initially very happy, because I felt like my journey was over! Little did I know, the journey was only beginning.
My Big Mistake: How I Got My First CPAP Machine
For my first machine, my doctor put me in touch with a local CPAP company that sells CPAP machines that took my insurance. This was where I made my biggest mistake in my CPAP treatment. My big mistake was in never asking if I had options for getting my first machine. As I’m sure most newly-diagnosed people do, I assumed that insurance would pick up most of the cost of the machine. I assumed it would just be another copay that I needed to pay and that would be the end of it.
When I spoke to the local CPAP machine company (also called a DME), they told me I would be renting my CPAP machine. Eventually, I would own it, but I had to make monthly payments. They told me they didn’t know what my downpayment was going to be, but they estimated that my monthly payments would be $10 a month and I would make an initial down payment of $100.
The Initial Projections Were Wrong
About 3 weeks later, a man hand-delivered my CPAP machine to me at our apartment. He gave me instructions on how to use the machine and then left. 4 weeks after that, I got the bill in the mail. It was for $300. One month after that, I started getting monthly bills for $40. As it turned out, the insurance company’s projection was completely wrong.
Instead of paying a down payment of $100 and monthly payments of $10, I paid nearly quadruple that amount. My insurance didn’t pay a dime towards the cost of my machine, and I overpaid for the machine by $200. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the exact same machine I got sells for around $600 on CPAP.com. To date, I’ve paid my DME $900 towards the cost of my machine, and I keep receiving bills for it.
Before blindly going with the company my insurance said they worked with, I should have done research on where I could buy a CPAP machine. If I had known that I was going to pay for the full cost of the machine myself, it would have been far smarter to buy one online. Buying online offers substantial savings over going through your insurance company. It also gives you full control over the type of CPAP machine you get. Many insurance companies pick out the machine for you and consider travel CPAP machines “luxuries”. If you want to get a travel CPAP machine, you will need to almost always buy one online.
After getting my CPAP machine, the first few months were tough. Even though my machine was fairly quiet, I kept removing the mask during the night, complaining of discomfort. I went back to my doctor, and he recommended I get a new mask. With all that I was paying for my CPAP machine, I couldn’t afford a bigger bill for more equipment. Eventually, though, the discomfort subsided, and I stopped taking the mask off.
It was then that I noticed a big improvement. My sleep got better and better. Suddenly, I had more energy. My life improved, and I began experiencing the benefits I dreamed about for so long. Things started to look up. Life got better, and I had my CPAP machine to thank. Overall, there were many things I wish I could have done differently. In the end, I’m in a good place with my treatment and my overall CPAP success.
“Don’t make the same mistake I did. Shop around. Here are some resources you can use to buy your CPAP machine online:”
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.