Frustrated man worried about treating sleep apnea without insurance

The Ultimate guide to treating sleep apnea without insurance

By Jason Wooden, PhD | April 21, 2019

Treating sleep apnea without insurance can be challenging, especially since you need an overnight sleep test for diagnosis and a doctor’s prescription. 

Paying out of pocket at a sleep clinic can get pretty expensive.  We’ll talk about all the things you can do on your own and your options to get treated at low or minimal cost.

A) Why treating sleep apnea without insurance is challenging

Waking up feeling miserable after another night of poor sleep is bad enough, but treating sleep apnea without insurance can leave you feeling helpless.

Sleep apnea currently affects over 18 million adults in the US.  With 28 million uninsured Americans, you’re bound to have people with sleep apnea who desperately need help but don’t have the insurance coverage to get into a sleep clinic for diagnosis and treatment.

And, unfortunately, many of the more effective sleep apnea treatments are classified as medical devices by the FDA which means you need an official diagnosis and valid prescription to get them.

Paying out of pocket can be daunting, especially if you’re out of work or just simply strapped for cash.

Or maybe you have insurance but it doesn’t fully cover everything…

An overnight sleep study, the traditional way to test for sleep apnea, can cost $1000 to $2000.  A basic CPAP setup, the gold standard for treating sleep apnea, can run you around $1000.

Those are BIG numbers if money is tight.

If you’re feeling stuck don’t give up.

We’ll talk about all the things you can do on your own to help your sleep.  We’ll also go through your options to get diagnosed and a prescription at low or minimal cost.

B) Things you can do on your own

Okay, if you’re treating sleep apnea without insurance, let’s make sure you’re at least doing the things in your control to help your sleep.

This is also important because other issues can sabotage your sleep even if you get a sleep apnea treatment.

Some of the things you should think about include:

Sleep hygiene:  This is what you do during the day and at bedtime that affect sleep.  It includes things like your bedtime routine and sleep environment.

Go through this checklist and make sure you’re doing the right things

Lifestyle changes:  Avoid substances like alcohol that may relax your throat muscles too much or smoking which can have harmful effects on the lungs.

Sleep position:  Depending on the severity of your sleep apnea, sleeping on your side instead of your back may help keep your throat more open and improve symptoms. Some people even claim that sleeping upright in a recliner helps.

Lose weight:  About half of people with sleep apnea are overweight, even a small amount of weight loss can help improve symptoms.

Exercise:  Besides helping with weight loss, exercise is known to promote deeper sleep and there’s evidence it can help reduce sleep apnea breathing disruptions.

Diet:  Eating healthier can help with weight loss, lower carb diets such as the Mediterranean diet may help

Lower cost treatments: If you’re able to get a prescription, lower cost alternatives such as Provent may help depending on the severity of your symptoms. (You can get a 30-night supply online for about $70.00.)  Learn more

These can all help, but what if you really need one of the more effective (and more expensive) sleep apnea treatments?  For that, you’ll need an official diagnosis and prescription from a health professional.

C) How to get a diagnosis and prescription without insurance

Yes, medical devices require a prescription, but did you know that getting a real diagnosis is important for other reasons?

Until you’re been tested in a sleep study, you won’t know what you’re up against and which options to try first.  And there are other sleep disorders and health issues that could be causing you sleep problems.

(You can get a quick overview of how sleep disorders are diagnosed here.)

That’s why it’s important to get tested and have your results reviewed by a sleep specialist, even if you’re treating sleep apnea without insurance.  They can recommend which device you need, the best set up, and the best therapy settings.

Let’s talk about what you can do on you own if you suspect you have sleep apnea and how to get a diagnosis on the cheap.

Free questionnaire:  If you suspect you have sleep apnea, take these simple sleep apnea tests from the American Sleep Apnea Association

     ASAA sleep apnea tests

Free screenings:  Dental Sleep Solutions® offers free sleep screenings and consultations for anyone interested in learning more about snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.

     Free Sleep Screening or Consultation

Participate in a clinical study:  You may be able to get a free overnight sleep study (also known as a polysomnogram) while taking part in a sleep-related clinical trial that’s looking for participants.

ClinicalTrials.gov – This is a government database of clinical studies.  Try entering search terms such as “sleep study” or “polysomnogram”, look for a study near you that’s recruiting, and contact them about your interest in being a participant.

MyClinicalTrial.com – This is a non-government website where you can register to participate in clinical trials.

CenterWatch Volunteer Sign-up – Another place you can sign up to be notified when clinical trials are posted that match the medical condition(s) you specify.  For conditions, try entering “sleep disorders” and “sleep apnea”.

Shop around:  Talk with the different sleep clinics in your area to see what their options are for people with no insurance.  Speak with a manager and explain your situation.  They may have reduced rates.  Some sleep centers have federal funds or private grants to provide services to uninsured, low income, or unemployed people.

Find a sleep center near you

In-home sleep study:   Some online companies offer remote lab testing which can be a cheaper alternative to an overnight test in a sleep clinic.  An in-home test kit currently costs $200-$300 and can include a prescription if needed.

D) Things to think about before you do a home sleep study

Home sleep apnea testing has grown in popularity due to its affordability, comfort, and convenience.  Another advantage is that you can get an answer quicker since it’s done in your own home.

However, you should be aware of the disadvantages:
•not as detailed or accurate as a sleep clinic overnight test
•may work best with serious cases
•not ideal for people with other sleep disorders or other medical problems
•not monitored, so no sleep technician will be around to fix equipment problems

Nonetheless, if you’re treating sleep apnea without insurance and strapped for cash, at least you have a way to get a diagnosis and prescription.

And some online companies are “one-stop-shop” – you can get a home sleep test, diagnosis, prescription, and your treatment all at one place.

In-home health testing has grown in popularity.  For sleep apnea, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says it’s important to look for a company that’s using an FDA approved test.

They also reccomend that you make sure a board-certified sleep specialist reviews the test results.

Some One Stop Shop Sleep Apnea Testing Companies

ApneaMed
Test: FDA, DOT approved
Cost: $299.00
Review / Follow up: board certified sleep physician
Prescriptions: Yes
Payment: credit card, pay pal
Treatments for sale: AutoPAP
Visit website

Easy Breathe
Test: FDA approved
Cost: $399.99
Review / Follow up: board certified sleep physician
Prescription: Yes
Payment: credit card, PayPal
Treatments for sale: CPAP, BiPAP
Visit website

Singular Sleep
Test: FDA approved, meets DOT and FAA requirements
Cost: $295
Review / Follow up: board certified sleep physician, online consultation
Prescription: Yes
Payment: credit card
Treatments for sale: CPAP, BiPAP
Visit website

iSleep Home Sleep Testing
Test: FDA, DOT approved
Cost: 225.00
Review / Follow up: board certified sleep physician, personal sleep coach
Prescription: Yes ($59.00)
Payment: credit card, pay pal
Treatments for sale: CPAP
Visit website

If you decide to go this route, the process is:
-Order test kit
-Take the overnight sleep test
-Send kit back to the company
-Results get analyzed by a sleep specialist
-Results sent back to you or a doctor

Do your homework and make sure they’ve addressed any concerns you may have.

E) How to get a sleep apnea treatment without insurance

So, one way or another, you’ve gotten officially diagnosed for sleep apnea.  (Hopefully, you’ve also got a prescription since it will be needed for most online medical equipment sellers.)

Let’s talk about your options to get your hands on some of the more expensive sleep apnea treatments such as a CPAP machine when you don’t have insurance.

Pay out of pocket – If you can afford it, many online sellers and in-home sleep testing companies will sell you a CPAP setup once you have a valid prescription.

Financing – Some online sellers offer payment plans

Free and Discounted CPAP equipment

ASAA CPAP Assistance Program
The Reggie White Foundation
Second Wind CPAP

Buy a used machine online – Used CPAP machines are frequently advertised on websites like eBay and Craigslist.  You can also find online outlets that sell refurbished used machines at a discounted price.

1800CPAP.COM
SecondwindCPAP
Repap.com

BE AWARE OF THE RISKS FROM USED MACHINES

  • germs from the previous owner
  • getting sick
  • might be at the end of life expectancy
  • features may not work properly
  • wrong machine for your symptoms

F) Insurance tips

What to remember if you’re treating sleep apnea without insurance:

  • Sleep apnea devices require a doctor’s prescription
  • There’s things you can do on your own to help your sleep
  • There are low cost ways to get a diagnosis and prescription
  • You may be able to get a CPAP machine at low or minimal cost

Sources:

1. “Most Uninsured Were Working-Age Adults”, US Census Bureau website.

2. “CPAP Machine Cost & Insurance: Everything You Need to Know”, CPAP.com website.

3. CPAP Machines and CPAP Masks, American Sleep Association website.

4. Diet and exercise in the management of obstructive sleep apnoea and cardiovascular disease risk. Eur Respir Rev. 2017, 26(144): 160110.

5. Mediterranean diet and exercise can reduce sleep apnea symptoms, ScienceDaily website.

6. Home Sleep Tests for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), J Am Board Fam Med 2015, 28(4):504-509.

7. Clinical Use of a Home Sleep Apnea Test: An Updated American Academy of Sleep Medicine Position Statement, J Clin Sleep Med. 2018, 14(12):2075-2077.

 

 

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