Oxygen therapy FAQs
Is oxygen addictive?
We all need oxygen to survive, so you can’t become addicted to it. You can, however, use too much oxygen. Like any medication, follow your health care provider’s instructions when using your oxygen equipment. Call your provider if you feel lightheaded, confused, or sleepier than usual or if you develop a headache after using your oxygen equipment.
What does my oxygen therapy prescription include?
When your health care provider prescribes oxygen therapy, that prescription should tell you:
- How often you should use oxygen therapy;
- How much oxygen you need based on your activity level; and
- The type of oxygen therapy system that best fits your needs.
You should also receive a certificate of medical necessity from your provider. Medicare and many other insurance providers require this certificate before they will pay for your oxygen therapy equipment.
Are there activities I won’t be able to do while using my oxygen therapy system?
You may find that some activities, such as swimming or walking outside, are more difficult with your oxygen therapy system. In the certificate of medical necessity you received, your health care provider should have described your level of mobility. The durable medical equipment (DME) supplier that delivers your oxygen therapy equipment is required to give you equipment that meets this level of mobility. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about your oxygen therapy system.
What does Medicare pay for?
For complete information about what Medicare pays for oxygen therapy, refer to the Paying for Oxygen Therapy booklet.
Also, visit the Medicare.gov Oxygen equipment & accessories page.
I’m moving. How do I continue my oxygen equipment deliveries?
For complete information about what to do when you change where you live, either permanently or temporarily, refer to the What to Do if You Move booklet.
Equipment and supplies
How do I measure my oxygen levels?
At the clinic or hospital, your health care provider has several sophisticated tools and tests for measuring your oxygen levels. For example, your provider can run blood tests to see how much carbon dioxide (a waste product of breathing) and oxygen are in your blood.
At home, you can use a tool called a pulse oximeter to measure your oxygen levels. This tool typically consists of a little monitor you place on your finger that measures two things: your heart rate (which should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute) and the amount of oxygen in your blood (a good level is anything over 92%). Pulse oximeters give you an idea of your oxygen levels, but the readings can vary based on the quality of the device you use, which finger you put the monitor on, whether your hands are cold or hot, and other factors.
Do I need a humidifier?
Oxygen therapy—especially high-flow oxygen—can cause your nasal membranes to dry out, leading to headaches and even nosebleeds. If you experience such side effects, call your health care provider to ask whether you may need a humidifier with your oxygen therapy system.
Medicare will pay 80% of the cost for a humidifier that’s part of your oxygen therapy. You must pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount.
For more information, visit the Medicare.gov Humidifiers page.
What’s the difference between pulse- or demand-flow oxygen and continuous-flow oxygen?
Pulse- or demand-flow oxygen therapy systems have a sensor that can tell when you inhale. They deliver oxygen only when you breathe in.
Continuous-flow oxygen therapy systems provide oxygen constantly, even when you’re not breathing in.
Your health care provider will prescribe the system that best meets your needs.
Who owns the oxygen therapy equipment at the end of my 5-year Medicare contract?
The durable medical equipment (DME) supplier that delivers your oxygen therapy equipment owns that equipment for the length of the 5-year contract.
Can I get emergency supplies? How are those supplies paid for?
The disposable items you use with your oxygen therapy system, such as nose pieces (called nasal cannulas) and tubing, are included in the monthly delivery from your durable medical equipment (DME) supplier. It’s rare that you would need emergency supplies, but if you do, your options depend on your DME supplier.
Some DME suppliers may provide such disposable items at no cost. Some suppliers may charge a minimal fee. Still other suppliers don’t allow cash sales at all and work only with Medicare and insurance companies.
It’s always a good idea to have extras. But, if you ever do need emergency supplies, you can purchase some components at medical supply stores or even at Amazon.com. Be aware, though, that you probably won’t be reimbursed for such purchases by Medicare or your insurance company.
Durable Medical Equipment (DME) suppliers
Can I choose the durable medical equipment (DME) supplier that delivers my oxygen therapy equipment?
Yes, but you must make sure that the DME supplier is covered by Medicare or your insurance company. To find a Medicare-approved DME supplier, visit the Medicare.gov Find a Supplier page.
Can my durable medical equipment (DME) supplier give me used equipment?
Medicare considers the parts of an oxygen therapy system that aren’t disposable durable medical equipment—that is, equipment that can be used over and over again. To help prevent the spread of disease, however, the tubing, nose pieces (called nasal cannulas), filters, and other disposable equipment you use with your oxygen therapy system must be new.
What if my durable medical equipment (DME) supplier stops carrying a supply I need?
The DME supplier that delivers your oxygen therapy equipment is required to provide everything your oxygen therapy prescription orders for the entire 5-year contract period. If your DME supplier stops carrying equipment you need, ask the supplier to put the change in writing. If you’re on Medicare, you can file a complaint on the Medicare.gov How to file a complaint (grievance) page.
What if my durable medical equipment (DME) supplier goes out of business or leaves the Medicare program?
If your DME supplier goes out of business or leaves the program, it must give you 90-day notice in writing. The notice must include the date the DME supplier will stop service. When you receive this notice, call the DME supplier: The company should help you find a new supplier in your area. Also, Medicare maintains a Find a Supplier page. When you have a new supplier, ask the old supplier to transfer your contract to the new provider in writing.
What happens at the end of my 5-year Medicare contract?
Your durable medical equipment (DME) provider will notify you when your 5-year contract is about to run out. Before the contract ends, contact your health care provider so that he or she can write a new certificate of medical necessity. Contract end is also an opportunity to talk to your health care provider about changes to your oxygen therapy or to change DME providers.
Who should I contact?
Call durable medical equipment (DME) supplier:
- My oxygen therapy system isn’t working right.
- I need to return broken oxygen therapy equipment.
- The delivery driver is late delivering my oxygen therapy equipment.
- Some supplies were left out of my monthly DME delivery.
- I lost the wrench from my backup/rescue oxygen tank.
Call health care provider:
- I think I need to change the amount of oxygen therapy I’m on.
- I get nosebleeds after I use my oxygen therapy system.
- My 5-year Medicare contract is about to run out.
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