An oxygen concentrator is a medical device that provides the life-saving oxygen everyone needs for life. These devices filter the surrounding air, compress it to the proper density, and then deliver purified oxygen to the individual who needs it. Over 1.5 million people in the United States require supplemental oxygen.
The American Lung Association lists several health conditions that can require supplemental oxygen, either temporarily or long-term:
A severe asthma attack
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Health Insurance/Medicare Might Cover Some of the Cost
However, oxygen concentrators are not cheap. Oxygen must be prescribed by a doctor to start with before it can be used.
Health insurance and Medicare may cover some of the cost of an oxygen concentrator as durable medical equipment in some cases.
For example, Medicare Part B will usually cover oxygen if the individual meets certain conditions. Medicare covers oxygen equipment rentals for use in your home, including equipment such as:
Systems that provide oxygen
Containers that store oxygen
Tubing, masks, mouthpieces, and other supplies and accessories that deliver oxygen
Servicing, maintenance, and repairs of equipment and supplies
Medicare may also cover humidifiers if used along with your oxygen equipment. Medicare also will cover the rental of oxygen concentrators and other oxygen equipment for up to five years, as long as you continue to have a medical need for oxygen therapy.
If the person has Medicare Part B, they can rent the oxygen concentrator from a supplier for 36 months (three years). After that period, your supplier will continue to provide coverage for an additional 24 months (two years).
After five years, a new five-year contract with the same or different supplier. If you own the equipment, Medicare Part B covers the cost of oxygen contents and supplies if all of the following apply:
Your doctor determines that you are not getting enough oxygen
Your doctor believes your health might improve with oxygen therapy
Your arterial blood gas level falls within a certain range
Other alternative treatments have been tried and failed
You will pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for the oxygen concentrator after you meet your Part B deductible ($233 per year in 2022 – deductible increases slightly every year).
How Long Will an Oxygen Concentrator Last?
How long will the equipment last? It depends on whether a traditional oxygen concentrator or a portable one is used. When it is time to replace the equipment, you should review the available options for yourself or a loved one.
Traditional Oxygen Concentrator Longevity
The lifespan of your oxygen concentrator will depend on several factors, such as the temperature, humidity and quality of the air, frequency of use, and age and weight. Older and heavier machines have been known to last up to 20,000 hours, which is slightly over two calendar years of continuous use. Newer machines typically last up to 10,000 hours, just over one year of constant use.
Portable Oxygen Concentrator Longevity
The lifespan of your portable oxygen concentrator depends on a few different variables, such as air temperature, humidity, and frequency of use. Since most people do not use their portable oxygen concentrators constantly, these machines can last a considerably long time for their size. Most portable oxygen concentrators will last up to 2,000 hours, just under three months of continuous use.
Regular maintenance must be performed to lengthen the lifespan of either your traditional home oxygen concentrator or your portable one. Remove dust and any other dirt buildup at least once a month with a soft, damp cloth while the machine is off. You can use cleaning wipes to sanitize it, but do not use ones with alcohol or any harsh chemicals.
Depending on the brand and machine, the external and internal filters will also need to be consistently replaced. External filters are easy to replace, but you may need a technician to replace the internal filters.
The machine probably came with two accessories that will also need to be cleaned: the tubing and cannula. Since these accessories are in constant contact with the face, they will need to be cleaned daily.
Wipe the outside of the tubing down every day with an alcohol-free sanitizing wipe similar to what is used to clean the outside of the machine itself. If dirt buildup occurs inside the tubing, it's safer to replace it than to try to clean it.
When to Replace?
When maintenance no longer keeps your machine in working order, it will be time to replace it. You should consider several factors when replacing your machine, such as the noise level, battery life, and warranty. These are some of the most important factors when you pick your first machine when you choose its replacement, so examine your options and choose wisely.
So, how long should an oxygen concentrator last? If you use a traditional home concentrator all day, every day, it will last one to two years based on the model and year. If you use a portable concentrator constantly, which is unlikely, it will last almost three months. Regular maintenance will extend your machines' longevity so you can use them longer. When you can no longer safely maintain them, you'll need to replace them.
Improving Quality of Life
Oxygen therapy can improve a person's health and overall quality of life. Some people hate the idea of using oxygen for a variety of reasons; however, people have found that it gives them more independence, and they soon forget about any embarrassment or hassle of using the device.
Some people will have to monitor their oxygen use closely, including watching for oxygen and carbon dioxide imbalance. Blood tests can be ordered to watch for these concerns.
Don't forget that oxygen is highly flammable. You do not want to smoke while using oxygen or be near someone who is smoking or using some electrical devices such as heating pads.
If a caregiver is helping the care recipient with their oxygen use, they will be trained on how to assist in making sure the equipment is working correctly.
The National Council on Aging provides additional information about Oxygen Concentrators, aging, caregiving on other related health issues.
About the Author
Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.
Contributor since September 25th, 2020
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