CPAP Therapy

Don’t Make This Mistake With Your First CPAP Machine

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.

Diagnosis

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.

Recovery

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:”

CPAP Machines
CPAP Masks
CPAP Parts and Supplies

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.

20 Comments

  1. Michele Arsenault Reply

    Yes my experience exactly as to insurance companies NOT taking on any of the expense…it’s a renting for huge profits industry. CPAP.com is indeed the best and cheapest option and they can help the new patient review choices. When trying to find a mask that works one can even use try it for free options with CPAP or purchase min8mlamreturn insurance. Styles are always changing (and improving) so this is a Greta feature of the site. As for travel, I tried a smaller travel machine (I go camping a lot) and personally hated how light it was…so I did get a battery from CPAP (unfortunately very expensive) and simply take half of my machine and leave home the humidifier part (which drains a battery in 4 hours), I should write an article about camping with apnea because I have a lot of information to share. Thank you for alerting others to the ridiculous costs of insurance “supplied” medical equipment.

  2. Jacqueline Reply

    David,
    THANK YOU very much for this information. I had a sleep study and need to get a CPAP Machine. Your experience is very helpful. Glad you are feeling better.
    J

  3. This also happened to me. My payments were in the $90 range monthly for over a year, 13 years ago! Upon asking the insurance co about why the charges were so high and for so long, they replied I had to meet my deductible. At the time I had no idea how many different kinds of CPAP machines there were, the DME company showed me only 1. I paid hundreds of dollars more than what the same machine cost online! And had I known I would have bought a quieter, much smaller machine. Later I bought a smaller travel CPAP with cash at a good price and did not submit it to insurance as they likely would have charged me far more.
    I can no longer sleep without a CPAP so I’m happy there are options available for machines and supplies.

  4. My husband went through the same thing. The sleep Doctor ordered a machine for him, he paid monthly and the DME store could never calibrate the machine right. He also would remove his mask because it bothered him and got frustrated. 6 months later our insurance company let us know they would quit covering the machine because he was not using it for the prescribed time the insurance company set per month. He returned the machine and quit using one which he needs. When I was diagnosed with SA I started researching places that I could reasonably buy one outright without the insurance company being involved. I turned to CPAP.com and bought a nice machine and I was able to try different masks out and return the ones that did not work for me. The only down fall for me doing this via website is if I need to have an adjustment made I will have to go to a DME store to have this done, some stores will not service your machine if you did not buy or rent it from them.

  5. This is an excellent article. We have had this same trouble with being referred to Apria or Rotech after sleep studies. What a ripoff! My son got a machine through Apria – after making payments himself and through insurance for a year and half, he was getting big bills when he moved out of state (about $700 in just a few months).. We called to ask how much it would be to purchase his cpap machine he was renting- it was about $1200 for his old machine! He could get a brand new one for under $900 – So he cancelled his rental with them and just bought a new one. Programmed it to match his old cpap. No more monthly surprises. And like you said, there was no choice about which cpap you were getting – i agree- go online, look at the reviews, buy your cpap yourself. You will save a bunch of money in the long run. These sleep apnea “provider” companies are a rip off. I wont be using any of them again.

  6. Mary Harris Reply

    On the other hand, I am apparently very fortunate in that my insurance covers the cost of my machine as well as new filters, masks, tubing, etc. on a routine basis! I was also provided with a new machine with the same coverage and kept my previous machine as it was considered paid for due to the number of months it had been used!

    • That’s great Mary! Some people are very fortunate and have great insurance. At the time I got my first CPAP machine, I wasn’t so lucky. The costs were way more than what I was expecting, and I’m finding out that many people had a similar experience. I’m glad you had a great experience in getting your first CPAP machine.

  7. Tariq Jamil Reply

    I have the same experience as everyone else. Couple of points I want to add here……dont trust either on SA STUDY PEOPLE or SA MACHINE PROVIDER, in terms of their statements about payment. This year in Feb/March, we were told by both of them that our insurance will cover these expenses we just have to pay $11/month as CPAP machine rent. The SA STUDY people sent us bills after couple of months, stated our insurance decline the charges. CPAP provider charged our card, which was on AUTOPAY after 6 months with a hefty amount. (word of advice, dont turn on Autopay option, always get the bill first).

    I suggest:
    1. talk to your insurance personally about payment prior accepting any service/machine so you will know where you are standing,
    2. Before signing any form from CPAP Study or CPAP Machine provider, make sure you understand everything,/calculation in that form and get the copy.

    • As you could probably tell from my article, my experience was similar to yours. If I had known in advance that the cost difference, between what I was quoted, and what I actually paid; I would have purchased the CPAP machine outright.

  8. It’s interesting to see how others progress (or not) with their CPAP machines for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. After being on CPAP for years (~2007), it was finally noticed, after years, that I had both Obstructive Sleep Apnea as well as Central Sleep Apnea. I had to move up from a CPAP machine to a BiPap machine (Auto SV..to mange the Central Apnea issue as well).
    Because I’ve been in this Apnea world awhile and also recently Retired, I realize that the whole Sleep Apnea world is a Huge money-making business. Yes, it helps people (including me) but the greed in over-pricing is astonishing, brazen, embarrassing and criminal (It charges an astronomical amount for pieces of cheap plastic that costs pennies to make but because it’s a trend “Thing” to have OSA, the greed comes out. There is absolutely no way that anyone, other than an Opportunist, gets involved in this. My Auto SV costs $7,000.00 !! It’s made of cheap plastic with a very simple device that’s set up to blow air to keep your airway open when needed! Yes, there’s an Algorithm applied here but many of the simplest devices these days are far more sophisticated. My wrist tells me how I Sleep, Walk, Eat, Drink, etc.You used to have to go see a Specialist for these things. (Like many, I have my own BP monitor.) It’s such a money grab. They say that “Sitting is the Old Smoking”. Well, when one looks back, you might see that Cannabinoids ,etc are the old Sleep Apnea diagnosis…whatever the focus….and on it goes. All you have to do is check online for the prices on the teensy, simple, cheaply made paper filters that patients have to replace at ~$10.00 for 3 filter deal. They cost nothing to make but they pass along whatever number they choose to charge into the patient. $20/3 paper filters) . And most patients are older so on limited income. I’m personally happy to have been finally diagnosed properly and given the correct treatment but it was a needlessly complicated, contentious path to get there. Hang on for the Next Big Thing that’s made cheaply but sold at Stupid markups.

    • Hey Dianne, I am sorry to hear about the long expensive process that you have went through, but glad to hear that you have finally received the proper diagnosis and treatment.

      We wish you the best!

  9. I had the same experience with my machine provider. I had no choice of machines to try and a mystery contract I had to sign that if I had kept the machine, I’m sure would have cost me more than it’s worth. But I have a REAL QUESTION for everyone here. I started at a pressure of 6 and a nasal mask. The machine would ramp up to 6 and my mouth would get blown open by the pressure at about 2AM every night. I had a very hard time getting any sleep. Then I finally talked the doctor into reducing the pressure to 5. This did not work either because that (CPAP) machine would not allow me to get rid of the CO2. There are only 2 areas in the mask and hose that any air can escape whether that air is new or used, so I would put on the mask and immediately feel like I was suffocating because of the CO2 being trapped in the mask and machine. So I gave the machine back to the provider!. He could not think of any masks or machines that allows the patient to exhale normally and get rid of the CO2. I felt like I was talking to a stone. Has anyone had this problem? What can I do now?

    • Hi Earl, I am sorry to hear that you were not able to receive any relief with using your CPAP machine. I have spoken with several of our customers who have experienced the very same issue as you. Most not knowing there was a simple fix of adjusting the settings on their machine. There are many machines available that offers a feature called EZEX, or C-flex which is designed to make your exhalation more natural.

      Please see the link below for information on a few machines that offers some type of exhalation relief feature.

      https://www.cpap.com/cpap-compare-chart-share/2ew8

      For further questions, or concerns, you may reach us at: 1-800-356-5221, or e-mail us at: cpap@cpap.com

      We wish you the best!

  10. Cathy Huban Reply

    I have a friend who has just been diagnosed. She is going in for another study using the machine to see if it will be beneficial for her. She had a stroke only has use of her right arm and hand. My concern for her is the ability to get the mask on. I know there are different types. Does anyone have a suggestion.

  11. Good points all around. I have a similar story, was diagnosed with sleep apnea went through the whole process of trying to get a machine through the insurance company, and it was just a pain in the rear. I ultimately never picked up my machine and cancelled all my appointments after finding out I could buy one of these machines online which is what I did. I already had my numbers written down so I just figured out how to work it via YouTube how to videos and such and got the thing up and going. Been sleeping good ever since and overall feel way better. Plus it was less hassle and way cheaper, I really wished my doctor would have told me ALL my options. Which, they did not. It’s almost like they’re in Cahoots with the insurance companies. Anyways do what is best for you but the moment I realised it wasn’t about my healthcare or wellbeing and more or less what an Insurance company says is gonna fly that’s when I jumped ship. Good luck everyone

  12. Bought my machine a year ago from a clinic.
    Resmed AirSense-AutoSet-System-Model
    They charged me $1600 would have been over 2000 but I didn’t have extended health.
    Just bought the exact same machine from Amazon for my husband for 572.00 plus 36.00 shipping.
    This makes me angry that I paid that much.
    These places are all over ripping people off.
    They should be checked out by consumer affairs😳

    • Hey Patricia, i’m sorry to hear that you had to pay so much for your AirSense 10 Auto set machine. CPAP.com manages to keep our pricing low because we do not accept insurance assignment and the savings are passed onto our customers.

      Whereas, we are not able to price-match with all sites, if you find a product on a different site less than our costs, we will do our best to match the lower pricing.

      We understand that your CPAP equipment is a medical necessity and we don’t want our customers to pay more than the necessary amount for our products.

      Please feel free to reach us at: 1-800-356-5221, or e-mail us at: cpap@cpap.com.

      We wish you the best!

  13. Donald B Ritchie Reply

    David,

    That’s a great post. My experience getting started with a CPAP was identical to yours and I had some of the same regrets. I’m a couple steps ahead of you, though, as I’ve been using my CPAP for nine years now. Let me add a little something for beginners: According to my research, most CPAP prescriptions are good for a life time. I would recommend that beginners project themselves into the future and preserve a copy of the original prescription to be used later. I’m at that point now where my old machine’s at the end of its life. No complaints as I got nine years out of it. Nevertheless, I’m trying to buy a new machine now and I don’t have a copy of the original prescription. It’s making it difficult to buy new equipment and I really don’t want the hassle of doing another sleep study. When I started CPAP therapy nine years ago I wish someone had made me aware of how important this little issue could become in the future. …food for thought!
    -Don

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