| Tue, Feb 07, 2017 @ 09:00 AM

COPD and Medicare

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Senior man talking with doctor in officeCOPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a disease that makes it hard to breathe. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Most people who have COPD have both of these conditions.

COPD is caused primarily by smoking cigarettes. It develops slowly. Early symptoms may be overlooked or discounted. They include:

  • Ongoing cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

Pipe, cigar and other types of tobacco smoke also can cause COPD, especially if the smoke is inhaled. Breathing in secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes or dust from the environment can contribute to the disease.

COPD Treatment

COPD is a progressive disease. Symptoms get worse over time. Severe COPD can interfere with basic activities like walking and taking care of oneself.

Treatments and lifestyle changes may help slow the progress of COPD and lessen symptoms. There is currently no cure.

The first order of business with COPD is to quit smoking. Relieving the lungs of this irritant is extremely important. Additional treatments may include:

  • Medications: Bronchodilators, inhaled steroids or both may be prescribed, depending on the severity of symptoms. Both medications help open airways to make breathing easier.
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: This is a program designed to help maintain normal daily activities. It may include exercise, education and nutritional and psychological counseling.
  • Oxygen Therapy: In severe COPD oxygen is given through nasal prongs or a mask. Oxygen may be needed all the time or only at certain times.

Medicare Can Help

Medicare Part B covers counseling to stop smoking. Beneficiaries may receive up to 8 face-to-face visits in a 12-month period. Stop smoking aids such as a nicotine patch are also covered. Bronchodilators and inhaled steroids for COPD are covered by Medicare Part D.

For moderate to severe COPD, Medicare will help pay for pulmonary rehabilitation. Up to two one-hour sessions per day for up to 36 lifetime sessions of pulmonary rehabilitation may be covered. The rehabilitation program may be delivered in a doctor’s office or in a hospital outpatient setting and must meet Medicare’s mandatory requirements.

Medicare Part B also covers oxygen therapy. It helps pay for the rental of oxygen equipment as durable medical equipment (DME) and all oxygen and supplies. If the equipment is owned, Medicare will help pay for oxygen and supplies for qualified beneficiaries. Medicare will only pay for oxygen therapy provided by a contracted DME supplier. Find a supplier in your area

Beneficiaries pay a 20% coinsurance for most COPD services covered under Part B once the Part B deductible is met. Copayment amounts for medications depend upon the specific Part D plan.

Talk to Your Doctor

More than 12 million Americans are diagnosed with COPD, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, the NIH says that another 12 million people likely have the disease and do not know it.

If you or someone you know has symptoms of COPD, don’t wait for them to become severe. Talk to your doctor and find out what it is. Like many chronic conditions, the progress of COPD can be slowed with proper treatment. The sooner treatment starts, the better for your lungs and for your overall health.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Learn more about COPD from the NIH.

American Lung Association: Get information and connect with others dealing with COPD.

Medicare.gov: The official U.S. government website for Medicare.

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