Sleep Apnea Machine Fees Putting Manitobans at Risk

Today Manitobans living with sleep apnea attended the opening day of the legislative session where New Democrats called for Pallister to reverse his decision to charge fees to Manitobans who use sleep apnea machines.

Sleep apnea machines, or “continuous positive airway pressure” machines, help manage the effects of obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep. These interruptions can starve the brain and the rest of the body of the oxygen it needs to function. Without treatment from a sleep apnea machine, those living with sleep apnea can suffer from high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and headaches.

In January, the provincial government announced they would be introducing a $500 fee for patients who need sleep apnea machines. Machines last on average five years before needing to be replaced. Current estimates are that 16,000 patients in Winnipeg use CPAP machines, with thousands more signing up each year.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew pointed to the cuts as being the wrong approach from a public health perspective and a financial perspective.

“This is another example of Pallister trying to save a dime today, but costing us in the long run. I’ve talked to many Manitobans who won’t be able to afford Pallister’s fees, and without treatment they could suffer from severe complications down the road. Diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, depression - these can totally take away someone’s quality of life,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.

“With these fees creating a barrier to prevent some patients from getting the care they need, our health system will have to deal with the chronic illness that can result, and that’s going to create greater pressure on specialists, emergency rooms, and all health services,” continued Kinew. “It just doesn't make sense.”

Margaret Feliksiak was in the gallery today. She has been using sleep apnea machines since 2003, when she was first diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.

“I’m retired, and this will be a bit hit to my budget, which I need to spend on other things, like my medication. I have insurance coverage but it doesn’t include sleep apnea treatment, and if it did, I expect my premiums would go up,” said Feliksiak. “Is it worth it to take people like us off a covered plan, and put us at risk? We’re doing this in our homes to stay out of the hospital. It’s not going to save money, it’s going to cost more in the long run.”