When it comes to insomnia and sleep related disorders, some of us find it more than curious that the only available treatments usually fall into one of three categories: 1) the sleep apnea study, 2) the sleeping pill and, 3) dental devices. It’s as if no other options really exist or are allowed to have a seat at sleep medicines’ table. Why is this exactly? Are there no scientific studies to legitimize these other alternatives? The answers, both professionally and politically, may surprise you.
The sad truth is that the business of sleep medicine had for many years been a license to print money. A single sleep lab, with 10 bedroom suites could generate revenue of $ 22,000.00 per night, seven nights a week. Insurance companies and Medicare were obligated to pay out these huge fees due to intense lobbying efforts by some of the more nefarious members of the sleep medicine community. With no other alternatives for treatment receiving the blessing of the community, many overnight sleep labs quickly became just another medical cartel.
But this may be changing. Newer, more efficient home testing devises for sleep apnea are now coming on the market. Medicare, the goose that layed the golden egg for sleep medicine profits, is now refusing to shell out $1800 to $2200 for a single overnight study. SleepQuest, a manufacture for these home testing devises has apparently chosen to bypass the sleep doctors in these centers and is marketing directly to primary care physicians. Primaries can now invest $ 4000.00 for the unit, send it home with a patient and upload the data directly to SleepQuest. The final cost for a SleepQuest home study? $550.00 to $650.00 including assessment, scoring and recommendations.
The major insurance companies too have had enough. Aetna, having payed out perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars for sleep studies, is the first major insurance company to break ranks with the sleep $20,000.00 a night money machines. In SleepQuests June, 2009 press release they state: “Aetna has taken a national leadership position in increasing access for diagnosing sleep-related illnesses like sleep apnea”. It’s almost assured that the other major insurers will follow suite now that Aetna has chosen to do so. The winds of change in responsibly addressing sleep disorders without greed had been long over due. Many a sleep center may very well crumble under the weight of this change, but make no mistake, sleep medicine as a whole will undoubtedly be better for it.
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