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Portable Oxygen Concentrator Resource Center

Portable Oxygen Needs On the Rise but HME Industry Is Declining

Posted by Duke on Jul 28, 2014 3:30:00 PM


As of right now, the need for supplemental oxygen is on the rise and has never been greater. Over the past 9 years, portable oxygen concentrators have been evolving from being expensive, big, bulky, and unreliable machines to extremely lightweight, compact, more economic and far more reliable medical devices. With the powerful uptrend portable oxygen concentrators have gained, it's a wonder why more HME companies do not carry them. As for the HME companies that do carry portable oxygen concentrators, they tend to have a minimal amount in-stock, use them only for rentals, or have old outdated machines. With HME companies having limited supplies and portables costing patients as much as $4,000 out of pocket, it's not that easy for patients to obtain one.

“One of the main challenges that patients may have when traveling with POCs is just obtaining one,” says Caleb Umstead, director of customer education, 1st Class Medical Inc. “While pricing has come down over the years, POCs still remain one of the most expensive oxygen devices. Because of this, many DME suppliers either do not carry devices or have only a few for patients to use during travel. This can cause an availability problem during the busy traveling season for oxygen users. Many DMEs have a waiting list for rentals and loaner POCs.” ("Taking Oxygen On The Road", 2012) Read full article here.

The biggest problems patients seem to  have when it comes to obtaining a portable oxygen concentrator are the cost and Medicare/insurance won't cover the machine. While there was a major increase of cases where Medicare paid for some or all of a portable oxygen concentrator from 2007-2011; 1,500 patients received a POC billed to Medicare in 2007 whereas 26,000 patients received a POC billed to medicare in 2011, the current billing system, bidding system, and budget cap are all putting a major damper on the progress portable oxygen concentrators have made. 

As a matter of fact, 1st Class Medical submitted multiple bids but did not win in any categories. We were hoping to be in the Medicare network as an authorized dealer, but that did not happen. With this turn in events, we focused on non-Medicare business and have continued to grow and bring patients more opportunities to get the portable oxygen concentrator they need. We have implemented multiple programs, all of which are geared towards getting patients the oxygen they need, including; our Rent-To-Own program, Instant Approval Financing, Trade-In, Buy-Back, and we offer used portable oxygen concentrators at heavily discounted prices.

Although we didn't win any bids, we strive to be an industry leader in sales and customer service. Caleb Umstead had this to say about losing the bids in HME Business Magazine, “Today it’s difficult to say what’s worse: winning the bid or losing the bid,” he says. “The options are very similar. Smarter and more efficient seem to be reoccurring trends in both scenarios. Losing the bid, however, forces you to reevaluate everything and focus on your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.” (Duffy, "Coming Up For Air: Respiratory & Round 2, 2, 2014). Read the full article here.

As is the case with most new technologies in their beginning stages, portable oxygen concentrators are becoming more popular, but aren't quite mainstream. This can be attributed to the slow rocky start as unreliable, big, and bulky oxygen machines and again the cost of the units. But as history tends to repeat itself, it's only a matter of time before they become the mainstream portable oxygen delivery system. Look at the computer, cell phones, and even the internet... All three of those technologies were in the beginning stages as "fads" or luxury items. Now they are daily essentials. However none of them are life-saving devices. We don't need them to live. A portable oxygen concentrator, on the other hand, is a life saving device. Compared to liquid oxygen or oxygen tanks, portable oxygen concentrators are more convenient, offer patients freedoms the other systems cannot, and they require less work from the HME.

According to Robert Jacobson, vice president of CAIRE Sales, North America, “For HMEs it is about economics, patient acceptance and marketability,” says Jacobson. “POCs can represent the lowest cost model for providing portable oxygen while the technology can better satisfy patient requirements. Reliability and overall equipment costs are also driving factors. POCs provide HMEs with a marketing advantage over other portable equipment due to added patient benefits, including overnight travel, air travel, and being able to stay out longer without the fear of running out of oxygen.” (Duffy, "Portable Oxygen: The Next Step, 1, 2013). Read full article here.

With HME companies having a limited supply of portable oxygen concentrators and Medicare/supplemental insurance companies not really covering the cost of a POC, most patients are paying for these units out of pocket. That's where we come in! 1st Class Medical offers the guaranteed lowest prices on all portable oxygen concentrators. If you find a lower price through a competitor, we have a standing policy that we will beat any viable offer by up to $200.00. Not everyone can afford to pay for these machines out of pocket, especially when they are at least $2,000 brand new. That's why as we continue to grow we are implementing more options to purchase or pay for these machines.

It started with our used portable oxygen concentrators and offering them at a heavily discounted price. With our used portables, you can have peace of mind knowing that each and every used unit in our inventory has been tested by our certified technicians and/or it has been serviced by the manufacturer. When possible, our used portable oxygen concentrators will come with some sort of warranty. Whether it's a 30 day warranty or a 2 year warranty, that all depends on the specific unit. Our used inventory comes from multiple avenues including older rental units, older loaner units, units we receive through trade-ins and units we buy from patients. Each concentrator gets rigorously tested before we determine if it needs servicing from the manufacturer or if it ready to be put on the shelf.

Topics: portable oxygen concentrators, portable oxygen

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