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5 Steps to Qualifying for Home Oxygen Therapy

If you think you have a health condition that would benefit from oxygen therapy, there are several factors to consider before obtaining a prescription from your doctor. Additionally, Medicare, Medicaid and commercial insurance companies may pay for home oxygen, but payment is based on diagnosis, laboratory results and other information as summarized below.

The 5 Steps Needed to Qualify for Home Oxygen Therapy

To qualify for home oxygen therapy, consider taking the following 5 steps:

  1. Talk to your doctor about whether you have a qualifying medical condition. This includes a lung condition or other condition that impairs your breathing. You may qualify for home oxygen therapy if you have symptoms and/or findings related to low oxygen levels such as pulmonary hypertension or recurring congestive heart failure due to right-sided heart failure.
  2. Be sure there is well-documented evidence of the qualifying medical condition as mentioned above in your medical file.
  3. Obtain an arterial blood gas study. Typically, to qualify for home oxygen therapy, you must have an arterial blood gas (PaO2) at or below 55 mm Hg or below or an oxygen saturation at or below 88%, taken at rest (awake); or a PaO2 at or below 55 mm Hg, or an oxygen saturation at or below 88%, taken during sleep for a specified duration for a patient who demonstrates a PaO2 at or above 56 mm Hg, or an oxygen saturation at or above 89%, while awake; or a greater than normal fall in oxygen level during sleep (a drop in PaO2 of more than 10 mm Hg, or a decrease in oxygen saturation of more than 5%) associated with symptoms or signs reasonably attributable to low blood oxygen levels; or a PaO2 at or below 55 mm Hg or an oxygen saturation at or below 88%, taken during exercise for a patient who demonstrates a PaO2 at or above 56 mm Hg, or an oxygen saturation at or above 89%, during the day while at rest, with improved results when oxygen is administered.
  4. Obtain a written prescription from a qualified health care professional who has recently examined you (generally within the last month). The prescription should include a diagnosis of the disease requiring the use of home oxygen, the oxygen flow rate in liters per minute and an estimate of the frequency and duration of use (for example, 3 liters per minute, 50 minutes per hour, 12 hours per day) and duration of need (for example, 6 months or lifetime).
  5. Make sure your doctor completes a Certificate of Medical Necessity and/or other forms as required by insurance indicating your diagnosis, length of need, oxygen blood gas level or pulse oximetry reading and the testing facility from which the readings were obtained, how the test was taken (room air, at rest, during exercise or while asleep), portability (if needed), liter flow prescribed, doctor’s signature and date.

Qualifying for Portable Oxygen

If you enjoy the freedom and independence that comes from using oxygen on the go, you may want to consider a portable oxygen concentrator like the Inogen One G3. Medicare will pay for portable oxygen:

  • If you meet the aforementioned daytime testing criteria (when awake), and;
  • Your medical documentation indicates that you’re mobile in your home and would benefit from the use of a portable system.


National Coverage Determination (NCD) for Home Use of Oxygen (240.2). CMS.gov. Accessed 8/24/2015.

By Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


24 thoughts on “5 Steps to Qualifying for Home Oxygen Therapy”

  1. Avatar Stacy, a very concerned daughter says:

    Trying to understand the guidelines and seeking clarification. Logically, the 88% rule applies to a person with 2 lungs, with reduced capacity or normal capacity and/or CHF.
    Is there specific criteria for a person living with only One Lung, (Second removed due to cancer) operating at <30% capacity, down from 45% a year ago, along with a diagnosis of COPD and quite possibly CHF?
    For several months now, mother is now on 24hr oxygen, using portable O2 in the rehab facility when she goes anywhere outside her room, where she uses a no portable device. Sending her home again (from hospital/rehab) without portable O2, dooms her to the rest of her life being housebound. That is not Living…
    It doesn't seem that the 88% rule/standard would nor could apply…can you please provide some immediate clarification, so a request can be properly submitted to United Healthcare/Medicare? She can't afford this system out of pocket financially, and she can't afford to be housebound the rest of her life either.
    Thank you for your assistance. Hoping for some positive feedback and guidance, as the company servicing her home O2 is being much less than helpful.

  2. Avatar Anna Aloisio says:

    Does inogen accept Medicaid and Medicare. My father does receive inogen services though your company and has Medicare and private insurance right now. However, he will going into the nursing home and he will no longer have the private insurance. He will have Medicaid and Medicare. He really enjoys his portable pack and would like to continue services with your company. Do you accept Medicaid and Medicare as payment?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Anna, Please call 1-800-678-5572 to speak with an Oxygen Specialist. Medicare coverage varies from region to region, but an Oxygen Specialist can check your insurance over the phone and can determine whether or not your father will be covered.

  3. Avatar Frank Ciccarello says:

    Can you try to list requirement 3 in ENGLISH

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Frank, We apologize if the exact requirements for an ABG (Arterial Blood Gas) Study are confusing to you. What we were trying to say is there are a few different test results that meet the criteria for home oxygen therapy. If you do require and take an ABG Study, your doctor will go through your results and may be able to explain the requirements to you in person a little bit better.

  4. Avatar Sharon says:

    My daughter who is 32 who has severe Cerebral Palsy, seizure disorder and congestive heart failure . Her saturation rates falls below 88 and she has difficulty breathing. Once she is in the hospital and given oxygen and medication her rates goes up. I am unable to get a prescription for oxygen at home from the hospital or her primary doctor but I continue have to admit her to the hospital every other month. She just needs it PRN. Why is it so difficult to get oxygen at home? Why can't they write up the paper work for oxygen at home when they check her saturation rate during her hospital visit at the time it's low?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Sharon, In order to be prescribed long term oxygen therapy (LTOT) the patient needs to have a resting partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2) of less than 55 mmHg and an oxygen saturation level lower than 88%. For more information, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/blog/copd-and-oxygen-therapy-when-do-you-need-to-start/ and https://www.inogen.com/resources/oxygen-therapy-treatment/what-is-oxygen-therapy/

  5. Avatar Samuel Christen, MD says:

    I need portable O2 when doing light housework or traveling. Any exercise other than sitting brings on symptoms of air hunger.. This is especially true on airplane flights.
    The VA refuses to give me an exercise test, or pulmonary function tests, to check arterial blood gasses under stress, which is when I really need portable oxygen. They falsely state my symptoms would not be relieved by oxygen, but I know this to be false after O2 therapy on long flights.
    I have a compromised heart with reduced cardiac output, underwent a 4 vessel bypass in 2001. I am now 77 and rated 100% disabled by the VA for combat injuries and conditions.
    Can you help me to qualify for a benefit from the VA for portable oxygen?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Samuel, Please call an Oxygen Specialist at 1-800-374-9038. We can not guarantee we can help you but an Oxygen Specialist will do his or her best to assist you.

  6. Avatar Patsy Holliday says:

    My sister has breathing problems. When she has to go to the hospital they give her a breathing tube and she can breath very well. When she is discharged the hospital will not send a breathing tube home with her because they say her oxygen levels are too high. I don't understand the hospital doctor's reasoning. Can you explain??

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Patsy,
      Thank you for writing to us. I suggest that you refer to her pulmonologist or primary care physician for their advice. Take care.

  7. Avatar Rich says:

    My mother has lung cancer and pulmonary embolus – she has been admitted 2x and passed walking oxygen sats test while admitted but dips to 89 and 88 while asleep. She seems more comfortable on oxygen at times when she is stressed. Is testing as an outpatient ever as an option? Are criteria different for those with complicated disease such as PE and cancer?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Rich, Thank you for reaching out. Testing as an outpatient is an option, so I suggest she reach out for outpatient testing and nocturnal (overnight oximetry) testing. A physician could order oxygen for the PE and cancer, however Medicare is pretty specific about eligibility testing and paying for the oxygen. You could purchase the POC with a simple Rx if she doesn’t qualify through Medicare. https://www.inogen.com/blog/transient-nocturnal-desaturation/
      Hope this helps!

  8. Avatar GWENDOLYN E GADSON says:

    My church has purchased a Oxygen Tank, Can we legally get it filled with Oxygen without a prescription in the State of Virginia?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Gwendolyn,
      Thank you for reaching out to us.
      We do not sell oxygen tanks, nor can we provide information on the requirements regarding prescriptions for them. Please contact a local doctor in Virginia for more information on this. Our portable oxygen concentrators and stationary unit do require prescriptions. Thank you.

  9. Avatar ted trzaska says:

    I have copd and I am on oxygen at home what do I need to do to get a portable oxygen concentrator to carry with me when I go out

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Ted, Thank you for reaching out to us. Please call us at 1-800-374-9038 and we can provide the steps in detail to you. Thank you for your interest.

  10. Avatar Venita Cullum says:

    An Inogen "specialist" is telling me I need to sign a rental agreement to get Inogen service even though the rental will be paid by Medicare and supplemental insurance. Is this correct? I have been through the O2 testing procedure 3 times and paperwork has been sent in 3 times. A deadline is approaching which means I might have to go through the procedure again! All I want to do is change suppliers. My present supplier is being paid by Medicare and the supplemental insurance.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Venita, Please call us at 800-695-7915 and we can look into your case for you. I am sorry that you have had to go through this 3 times and hope this is the last time.

  11. Avatar diane plymale says:

    i have cluster head aches and oxygen is only thing that helps but i can not get it because my oxygen level is 94 any suggestion how to get it filled

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Diane,
      That sounds painful. I suggest you speak with your doctor and discuss different options.

  12. Avatar Traci Casey says:

    Hi, I have Pulmonary Hypertension and am on oxygen therapy 24/7. I have both Medicare and Medicade and was curious if an Inogen would be covered?
    Thank you

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      HI Traci,
      Please contact us via telephone and we will run a free eligibility check for you. 1-800-695-7915

  13. Avatar Matt says:

    Just curious if this is a scam or not, We called gave all info needed and was told it was going to finance for approval, Certainly not a quick process but I specifically asked if we would be told one way or the other so we could go a different route if need be, were going on a week so; how long should we wait before calling once again to check the status? Thanks

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