CPAP Study: Low Income People Less Likely to Use CPAP

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Being slightly broke isn’t fun – the college kind of broke where you can afford a slice of pizza and noodles for dinner and not much else, but you know your parents will probably pitch in if you really need it, especially for a new guitar when you go through your Woody Guthrie phase. However, actual poverty is a chronic, societal problem that affects people in different ways across the world. In first world countries, being near or below the poverty line is much different, because you actually see the people around you enjoying so much more than you have – even the basic necessities, like housing, clothing, and medical care. Now researchers are saying that low-income individuals are less likely to undergo CPAP therapy to treat their obstructive sleep apnea –mostly because it is too expensive.

As part of our continuing efforts to provide EASY solutions to common problems facing people suffering from sleep apnea, we created a unique program called Easy Giving.  This program empowers sleep apnea patients to harness the strength of their network of friends and family to help handle the cost of their desperately needed CPAP machine.

– Team Easy Breathe

Indeed, rich people will buy anything – look at Michael Jackson who slept in a hyperbaric chamber for much of 1986 in the hopes that he would live to be 150 years old. Look at Howard Hughes who had his own personal medical team. In fact, a lot of doctors today are giving up on public healthcare and are setting up boutique medical practices that serve only the ultra rich. They can blame it on the bureaucratic nightmare of health insurance, but we all know that money is doing most of the talking. This new study, which was published in the journal SLEEP, shows that someone’s socioeconomic status essentially predicts whether they will even begin CPAP treatment for their sleep apnea in the first place.

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It should be noted, though, that this study was conducted in Israel – a country that has had universal and socialized healthcare since its founding in 1948. In addition, the National Health Insurance Law, which was passed in 1995, further cemented the healthcare rights of Israeli citizens – with mandates such as “every citizen is entitled to health care services” and “every resident has a right to register as a member of an HMO of his/her choice.” So, you can imagine what it’s like in other countries without universal healthcare, like the great Amurica we all love so much – a country where people can hardly afford basic medical insurance and a trip to the emergency room can send your credit score hurtling down to the point where you can barely afford a new iPod on layaway. A new CPAP machine? – Forget about it.

The study, which was conducted at the Sleep-Wake Disorder Unit of Soroka University Medical Center at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel, included 162 patients who were newly diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. After two weeks, the study participants were given a recommendation as to how much air pressure they need to reduce the number of cessations in breathing that occurred while they slept. Patients were also told that they should undergo a two-week long trial period to adapt to CPAP treatment. They were also given pamphlets and other medical information about the benefits of CPAP treatment. Basically, patients were told that CPAP therapy could save their lives. After four to six weeks, the participants were asked if they would purchase a CPAP machine and undergo treatment.

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The results were fascinating – considering the fact that in Israel patients are only required to pay about 30% of the CPAP machine’s cost with their own hard earned shekels. Roughly 60% of the patients who were encouraged to undergo CPAP treatment by researchers declined – many of them saying it was just too expensive. The study also showed that as the income level rose, the CPAP acceptance rate climbed by about 140%. The researchers also noted that while money definitely had something do with lower income patients’ decision to accept treatment, there were other factors involved, like doctors not providing enough information to patients about the benefits of CPAP treatment or even basic knowledge about the sleep disorder and all its detrimental effects.

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What does this study say about people with a low socioeconomic level in other countries? Take the United States for example: you can bet that if you don’t have health insurance, a CPAP machine is just another extraneous cost that is so far down the list – the list that includes putting food on the table – that it barely registers as a blip on the radar. Even though, comparatively speaking, CPAP machines aren’t that expensive – especially for a device that could save someone’s life – the pervading mentality is that providing for a family is much more important.

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However, while the affordable healthcare war still rages on in the U.S., there are signs of hope for those people who can’t afford a new CPAP machine. Thanks to the Internet, people are finally getting together to help people. For instance, Easy Breathe’s recently announced Easy Giving program allows sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea to start a crowdfunding campaign that reaches out to friends and family in the hopes that they can pitch in for the purchase of a new CPAP machine and CPAP mask. For just $25, patients can have their campaign set up in less than one business day and friends and family can start donating money immediately. Also, that initial $25 dollars is put in the hat as well. And to sweeten the deal, Easy Breathe will contribute 10% of the final campaign goal to the purchase of a CPAP machine and mask.

In the end, perhaps one of the most ironic things about this study is that, statistically speaking, people who are in the low-income bracket have a much higher chance of having sleep apnea. Researchers surmise that this is because of a number of environmental factors like diet and lifestyle choices. Statistics also show that there is a much higher rate of tobacco smoking among people in a low socioeconomic status, which can exacerbate the symptoms of sleep apnea. So, perhaps one of the best ways to defy statistics is to get resourceful – sometimes simply by knowing that the tide is turned against you is your best chance at fighting against it.  And, lastly, it is important to know that you don’t need to be an eccentric millionaire to get CPAP treatment.