Sleep apnea affects millions of people worldwide. If you have sleep apnea, whether you realize it or not, your breathing stops and starts while you're sleeping. Poor breathing not only disrupts your sleep but can also cause other health risks. 

Once you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, a doctor will often prescribe either a CPAP or BiPAP machine to help you breathe easier and sleep more soundly. CPAP machines are more common, so you may already be familiar with them. If not, that’s okay! In this guide, we’ll explain the key differences between CPAP and BiPAP machines, including how they work and what they cost. 

Key takeaways:

  • BiPAP and CPAP machines deliver air pressure to your lungs to help you breathe better while you sleep.

  • While there are two pressure settings for a BiPAP machine, CPAP machines deliver one consistent level of pressure as you sleep.

  • BiPAP machines can also be used to treat other respiratory conditions, which is why they’re more expensive than CPAP machines.

  • Medicare covers the cost of a BiPAP or CPAP machine if it is medically necessary to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

What is BiPAP vs CPAP?

Understanding BiPAP machines

How a BiPAP machine works

A BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) machine is a specialized positive airway pressure device that helps people with sleep apnea. It pushes out two different air pressure levels: a higher pressure when you inhale and a lower pressure when you exhale. The consistent delivery of air pressure ensures that you have enough oxygen in your lungs while you sleep. BiPAP machines are commonly used for sleep apnea, but may also be prescribed for other conditions, like:

  • Asthma

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Heart issues

  • Neurological disorders

  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome 

What components are included in a BiPAP machine

A BiPAP machine is about the size of a lunchbox. It includes a tabletop machine with an attachable tube that connects to a mask or nose plug. Some machines also come with humidifiers or other features that make using the machine more comfortable.

Benefits of a BiPAP machine

BiPAP machines are more complex. Rather than delivering one set air pressure level, they allow you to adjust pressure levels based on your unique breathing patterns. This feature is important for people who have more serious forms of sleep apnea or multiple respiratory conditions.

The cost of a BiPAP machine

Compared to other sleep apnea devices, BiPAP machines are more expensive, with pricing ranging from $1,700 to $3,000. Medicare provides coverage for BiPAP machines—we’ll go into more detail on how and when later on in this guide. 

Understanding CPAP machines

How CPAP machines work

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine is a very common device used to treat sleep apnea. Unlike a BiPAP machine, it delivers air pressure at one consistent level. A CPAP machine prevents your breathing from stopping while you sleep with a consistent flow of air pressure.

What components are included in a CPAP machine

CPAP machines and BiPAP machines look similar and have similar parts. A CPAP machine will  have a motor, a CPAP tube, and a CPAP mask. 

Benefits of a CPAP machine

CPAP machines effectively treat obstructive sleep apnea by delivering consistent airflow. CPAPs are the most popular choice for treating sleep apnea , and are best for people with more mild and straightforward cases.

The cost of a CPAP machine

CPAP machines, while generally less expensive than BiPAP machines, still have high price tags. CPAP machines can cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000. 

BiPAP vs CPAP: Key differences between the sleep apnea machines

There are a few key differences between BiPAP and CPAP machines, including pressure levels, breathing patterns, indications for use, and costs.

Pressure levels

The main difference between BiPAP and CPAP machines is the different pressure levels they can deliver. BiPAPs offer two pressure settings—one for when you inhale and one for when you exhale. CPAPs, on the other hand, deliver just one consistent air pressure.

Flexibility to treat other respiratory conditions

CPAP machines only deliver one air pressure level throughout use. They’re effective in treating sleep apnea, but are not used to treat other respiratory issues. Because BiPAP machines deliver more than one pressure setting, they’re often used to treat more severe cases of sleep apnea and other respiratory conditions. 

Because BiPAP machines have more than one pressure setting, they can be used as a treatment for people who have other respiratory conditions outside of sleep apnea. CPAP, on the other hand, is usually only used for sleep apnea since it’s less flexible to other respiratory conditions. In some cases, health providers recommend BiPAP machines for more severe sleep apnea challenges and CPAP machines for more mild to moderate sleep apnea issues.

Cost comparisons

Both BiPAP and CPAP machines are expensive, but CPAPs are generally less expensive. A CPAP machine can cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000, while BiPAP machine pricing can range from $1,700 to $3,000.

Other options for sleep apnea machines

APAP (Auto-Adjusting Positive Airway Pressure) machines are another option for treating sleep apnea. While CPAPs deliver constant air pressure and BiPAPs deliver dual air pressure, APAPs adjust air pressure automatically to provide the right level based on changes in your breathing while you sleep. Put simply, APAPs provide the most tailored treatment solution.

Does medicare cover BiPAP or CPAP machines?

Medicare covers CPAP, BiPAP, and APAP machines if they are considered medically necessary to treat obstructive sleep apnea. 

If you have Original Medicare, you’ll have to pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount after you reach your Part B deductible. 

Medicare Advantage plans cover the same services and treatments as Original Medicare, but your out-of-pocket costs will vary between plans. What you pay for copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles will depend on the policy you have. It’s important to discuss payment with your medical provider’s billing department before getting a BiPAP or CPAP machine to understand what you can expect to pay.

Have questions about what your Medicare plan covers? Talk to one of our licensed Medicare Advisors for free advice tailored to your specific healthcare needs. Call 855-900-2427 or schedule a time to chat.

BiPAP vs CPAP: Choosing the right sleep apnea treatment

When making the decision between a BiPAP machine and a CPAP machine to treat your sleep apnea, you should speak with your doctor to find the right solution for your needs. If your sleep apnea is mild, your doctor will likely suggest a CPAP machine. If your condition is more severe or you have multiple respiratory issues, your doctor may prescribe a BiPAP machine.

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