Used equipment finds way into uninsured hands

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TRACY, Minn. – When provider Mark Seager set out to put CPAP devices in the hands of those who can’t easily afford them, he had no idea of the need.

“It was almost a runaway horse the way it took off,” said Seager, a respiratory therapist and owner of Prairie Home Medical Supply. “Thankfully, it has provided a lot of help for people who fall through the cracks of health insurance or have high deductibles.”

Seager sells used CPAP and Bi-level devices, which he obtains in one of two ways: on the secondary market, where a lot of machines end up because an individual can’t tolerate the therapy; or through equipment auctions when a company closes its doors. Prairie Home Medical Supply cleans and tests the machines but does no repairs or parts replacement. A gently used CPAP sells for between $150 to $175, compared to about $1,000 for new devices.

Not all of the equipment is suitable for resale—it might not meet hours of use or it might have cosmetic flaws—so Seager began setting it aside to donate on an as-needed basis.

“I would get calls from physicians and clinicians that had a patient in a desperate situation,” he said. “The physician would call to buy a device themselves for a patient. We had all these devices sitting here that were functional.”

Word got out and eventually it became too much for Seager to handle. Enter the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), which has taken over the donation program. The association processes applications and Seager processes donated equipment and acts as a fulfillment center.

“Right now, there are people who need the therapy, they have a prescription, but they just can’t afford to get the device,” said Ed Grandi, executive director of ASAA. “Those are motivated patients, so it seems horrible not to be able to provide devices.”