My 91 year old Mom has been on supplemental oxygen for just over 10 years and we've used the same provider for the first 10 years. They no longer offer this so we had to choose a new provider. We've been with the new company for just a few weeks. They are limiting the number of E tanks we are allowed, even though when I was researching new providers, they indicated there were no limits. They also told me oxygen deliveries are usually before noon, and now they can come anytime and cannot provide a delivery window so Mom and caregiver are forced to stay home until they deliver the tanks.

I'm beginning to wonder if they are trying to force us to use their "home fill" system. When they came to set up Mom as a new patient they tried to give us a home fill system with 3 empty tanks. It takes 5 hours to fill a tank and it requires another machine to run in addition to the oxygen concentrator. The caregiver was uncomfortable with this and I didn't think it was going to work for us so I asked for prefilled tanks and a normal concentrator and they provided that. Now we are also finding that their prefilled tanks are not always full and the gauges aren't accurate so we never know how much oxygen is really left in the tank. It's very nerve wracking. I actually ran out of oxygen once while we were out and about because the gauge showed there was oxygen in the tank but nothing was coming out. Their suggestion was to "time the oxygen", meaning track how many hours/minutes I've used on the tank and to let them know if there is a problem with the gauge. I don't know if it makes any difference but these tanks have the gauge on the tank rather than on the regulator so I think they are subject to more damage.

I know Medicare has 5 year billing periods for oxygen but does anyone know if we can change providers at this point? I can't find anything that covers this issue on their website. Any insight would be appreciated.

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Ran out of space on the first message.  If you want info on the supplier we used, PM me and I'll look up the data.  I can even check to see if they supply AA.   Since we were a customer for years, they might even remember me and/or give me some suggestions if they don't serve your area.
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1.   Oxygen suppliers

My father had supplemental oxygen for years, then full time oxygen, so we've had some experience with different providers.

At one point Medicare apparently asked potential suppliers to rebid, and then selected from that more limited set of providers.   The one we had made the decision that it couldn't compete in the kind of new environment created, so it segued out of the oxygen supply field.

I do recall one supplier I didn't like, so I contacted the staff of the pulmonary doctor who prescribed the oxygen and we did find another, much better supplier.    It was subsequently acquired by a larger company, but the service remained  outstanding. 

This was in Oakland County, Michigan.   (We're neighbors!)  There may be and probably are different supply companies in your area, although I suspected the trend was toward nationwide suppliers with larger bases.

We no longer needed oxygen after early April of last year, so I don't know if policies have changed.   The doctor's office who scripted for the oxygen is absolutely the best source for any issues you have with your supplier.

I'm wondering though if a DME somehow got involved through a hospital visit.    There were a number of small suppliers affiliated with DMEs with "stores" in hospitals, and they simply didn't have the capacity to provide home oxygen.

2.   Services.

Our services were excellent, more flexible than the ones you describe.   Generally someone would come out the same day, for emergencies (which there were), or at least talk us through the problems.

Deliveries if I recall accurately were the next day, with no specific times but generally time frames.   There was no limit as to before or after when delivery could be made.

3.   Tanks.

I don't recall any limits, and in fact once Dad needed oxygen 24/7, I asked for extra for trips.   I do recall getting packages of E tanks, with 4 per package if I remember correctly.  And I got 2 packages in one delivery.  I already backups of about 4 E tanks.  

We did try the "home fill" system, with a tank placed on top of the concentrator and refilled based on that method.   It was kind of cumbersome.      But we did NOT need an additional machine to fill the tanks.

We also initially had a good portable system which we used for doctor appointments, with 3 back-up Li-io batteries.  I asked for and got another (= 4 batteries).  Each lasted about 2 hours.

 And I contacted the manufacturer of the portable system and got a car battery charger (a little over $100 if I remember correctly) to charge the Li-io batteries if we went on a trip.   Medicare would not pay for the card charger.

4.  Regulators and gauges. 

I never experienced the kind of misinformation you have as to tank capacity.    I'm wondering if these tanks and the regulators are old, recycled junk.   It doesn't sound as if the equipment is in good shape.  

If the gauge did show capacity but no air was being released, there might also have been a problem with the cannulas.   I tested 2 if not 3 for each E tank, and the same for the portable, and took them all with me when we traveled, even just to the doctor.   

I did have a problem once when an E tank regulator malfunctioned and dispensed oxygen at the highest flow rate.    One of the portables also was very sensitive to cannula flow and alarmed when the cannula became even slightly out of line.

I have no experience with gauges on tanks as opposed to regulators.   I'm wondering if these are newer, or very old tanks, and just not up to par. 

5.  Suggestions.

Contact your pulmonary doctor, explain the situation, and ask for a different supplier.  You might even want to discuss these problems with the potential supplier before signing anything.  

I think the supplier you've got is subpar, unless things have changed since last year.   It doesn't sound very amenable to good solutions for remedying the problems.

Good luck.  I know how frustrating relying on a tank can be.
Helpful Answer (3)

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