Ontario’s positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy providers, including one Newmarket business, are speaking out against a planned government cut to funding.
PAP therapy devices, such as CPAP machines used to treat sleep apnea are funded by the provincial Assistive Devices Program (ADP) with a current price of $860.
However, the government is planning to cut that to $554, effective Oct. 1, 2021, after delaying the change originally due to take effect in April 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Ontario Home Respiratory Services Association (OHRSA) has launched a campaign called Access to Air is Access to Care to inform Ontarians about how the change could end up costing patients hundreds of dollars more or put some providers out of business.
Scott Baker is on the board at OHRSA and a managing partner at InspiAIR, which has a location in Newmarket at 615 Davis Dr., which provides CPAP service and also home oxygen services.
“Equitable access to therapy and care for all Ontarians is being really threatened,” Baker said.
He said as a result of the funding change, a lot of smaller providers won’t be able to stay open.
“You’re either going to go out of business or you’re going to raise your price to the customer dramatically to stay in business,” he said.
He said that $554 won’t cover the cost of the CPAP systems and that clinics have other operating costs like wages and leases to pay for as well.
For those that are able to stay in business, Baker said the biggest hit will be to patients who don’t have private insurance to cover the rest of the cost.
“At our business in Newmarket, there’s going to be a considerable number of patients that are not going to be able to afford therapy despite the medical diagnosis that they desperately need it,” he said.
Another issue service providers are concerned about is compliance.
Michael Sharp, CEO at FPM Solutions CPAP & Medical Devices, said they currently offer three to five hours of clinical support and follow-ups to ensure new patients are properly fitted and able to use their devices.
He said with the change in price, they won’t be able to provide that service anymore.
“It will become very much a ‘here’s your machine, good luck’ type of program which is too bad because what we’ll see is compliance dropping across the province and then all these other co-morbidities will escalate accordingly,” he said.
Sharp said that if sleep apnea isn’t treated, it can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Baker agreed that resulting health issues is one of the reasons non-CPAP users should be concerned about the cut.
“It’s a serious medical condition that needs to be treated nightly, and the implications on the health-care system and frankly why the Ministry of Health funds CPAP is really to mitigate downstream serious health care costs,” he said. “There’s a number of physiologic conditions of people that suffer with sleep apnea if left untreated.”
He said that in the end, the planned price change will end up costing the public more.
It’s a view that is shared by Sharp.
“As an Ontarian — yes I own a business in this space and am impacted by it — it’s just so short-sighted to save a few dollars today from the government’s perspective on machines when we’re going to pay multiples and multiples and multiples of that in hospital care costs, physician costs, and people’s lives down the road. That’s just really frustrating to know that and to be able to put math to that, that’s not my opinion there’s research and math,” he said.
Both Sharp and Baker said they have reached out to local MPPs, including Minister of Health and Newmarket-Aurora MPP Christine Elliott in hopes of stopping the cut.
The campaign from OHRSA also encourages Ontarians to email their local MPP about maintaining funding to CPAP devices.
Elliott’s office was contacted for this story but did not respond by the time of publication.