Does Medicare Cover Portable Oxygen Concentrators?

In this article...
  • Portable oxygen concentrators can help people with COPD or other issues improve their quality of life. But does Medicare cover portable oxygen concentrators?

A portable oxygen concentrator is a piece of medical equipment that converts the air around you to purer oxygen. These devices are much smaller than oxygen tanks, which can help support mobility and lifestyle choices for those that require oxygen. But does Medicare cover portable oxygen concentrators? The answer might disappoint you.

Does Medicare Cover Portable Oxygen Concentrators?

While, Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) doesn't cover portable oxygen concentrators, some Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans may help pay for portable oxygen tanks, depending on the plan.

While Original Medicare does cover oxygen and oxygen tanks, often in the form of rentals of the required equipment, it doesn't cover POCs because they are quite expensive. Medicare can typically save money by paying for oxygen tank rentals instead.

While most Medicare Advantage plans often provide extra benefits when compared with Original Medicare, they may not cover POCs for the same reason. Check with your plan if you're interested in a POC to see if it might be covered.

Why Are Oxygen Concentrators So Expensive?

Portable oxygen concentrators are expensive because they're complex pieces of equipment. They have internal workings to take regular air from wherever you are and convert it into mostly just oxygen. They are also able to rely on battery power, which means they have to be relatively efficient.  

Which Is Better: an Oxygen Tank or Oxygen Concentrator?

Portable oxygen concentrators can cost a few thousand dollars, and patients often have to foot that bill out of their own pockets since Medicare doesn't cover them. POCs also need to be powered by a battery or a connection to an electrical outlet, so you do have to plan for using one to maximize benefits such as flexibility and mobility.

Oxygen tanks are covered by Medicare, drastically reducing your out-of-pocket expenses (at least up front). But they're less flexible and can reduce your mobility. 

Ultimately, you'll need to weigh your own needs and budget to decide which option is right for you.

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