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Who Qualifies For Home Oxygen?

There are some amazing benefits of home oxygen therapy. This is for those who qualify. So, how do you know if you qualify? If you do qualify, what happens next? Here’s what to know.

Qualifying for home oxygen

In the United States, Medicare will pay for home oxygen therapy for those who qualify. You will then need to have a diagnosis of COPD. You must also have documented confirmation of hypoxemia.1


As you probably know already, this is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It may consist of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or both. This must be documented in your medical records. There are also other lung diseases that may qualify you, such as heart failure, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, or pulmonary fibrosis.


This is a low oxygen concentration in your blood. There are a few ways this can be demonstrated. One, you can have an ABG drawn. Two, you can have your oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitored at rest or when walking.

  • ABG. Otherwise known as an Arterial Blood Gas. It’s a blood test. It’s usually drawn from the radial artery in your wrist. It’s the best way of determining your oxygen levels. It must be drawn while you are resting. You must also be inhaling room air only (not on supplemental oxygen). The value we are looking for is your PaO2. It must be 55 mmHg or less. This confirms hypoxemia.1,2
  • SpO2 at rest. Otherwise known as your oxygen saturation. It’s obtained using a pulse oximeter. It’s indicated as a percentage. It’s the percentage of inhaled oxygen that gets into your arterial blood. It must be obtained while resting and while breathing room air. This needs to be 88% or less. This means you qualify. You will then be asked to wear 2-3 LPM via nasal cannula. This is the kind of oxygen delivery device that is inserted into your nostrils. It’s very tolerable and comfortable. If this improves your SpO2, then you qualify.1,2
  • SpO2 while walking. So, say your room air resting SpO2 is greater than 88%. So, another option is to have you go for a walk. So, here your SpO2 is monitored while you go for a walk. If it drops below 88% while walking, this confirms hypoxemia. It confirms you need oxygen while walking. You’ll also have to be placed on oxygen before going for a second walk. Usually, all that’s needed for COPD is 2-3 LPM via nasal cannula. If this normalizes your oxygen levels while you walk then you qualify.1,2

There are other qualifiers as well. But usually, one or both of these methods are what qualifies people with COPD.

Oxygen equipment and set up

Your doctor will be notified of these results. An oxygen provider will be notified. Oxygen equipment will be delivered to your home. You will be provided with an oxygen concentrator and some oxygen tanks.

You will be given all the other equipment you’ll need. This includes a nasal cannula, oxygen tubing, and a bubble humidifier (the humidifier helps prevent your nose from drying out).3 You may also be given some replacement supplies, such as extra tubing, extra cannulas, etc.

Medicare is aware of the importance of staying active despite COPD. So, they are usually willing to pay for portable oxygen equipment. However, what equipment you receive may be dependent on your oxygen provider. Most providers will only supply you with portable oxygen tanks. However, some will supply portable oxygen concentrators.

Most people allow Medicare to pay for all their home oxygen needs. However, if you are willing to pay, your equipment options are unlimited. There are some really nice portable oxygen devices for those who are willing to pay. To learn what options are available you can talk to your oxygen provider. Or, you can simply do a search on a website like Amazon.

Not everyone living with COPD needs oxygen therapy

So, many people with COPD do not need supplemental oxygen. This may be true even if you experience shortness of breath. Yes, you can be short of breath while continuing to have normal oxygen levels. However, some people with COPD may benefit from supplemental oxygen. If this describes you, now you know what tests your doctor may order to see if you qualify.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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