"If you've taken the time to scour the internet for the latest and greatest offerings in the world of CPAP equipment, you've no doubt come across one or two websites that offer CPAP mask insurance. I know we've had a few phone calls from customers who seem to be interested in the concept of CPAP mask insurance, so I thought I'd address the concept here.

The way CPAP mask insurance works is that you pay, for example, a 25% premium for a CPAP mask. Although you pay more for the mask, you have the option of returning it within a specified time period for a credit in the amount of the original mask price. You'd have to pay full price (perhaps plus insurance) for the second mask. You could continue like this once you've tried every CPAP mask imaginable. From the perspective of some customers, this seems like a great deal. They can try as many masks as they want, without actually having to pay full price for each mask. The drawback for the customer buying and utilizing mask insurance is that shipping charges can add up very quickly, basically destroying the whole concept, as we'll see later.

When this service first became available I asked myself how this type of program could possibly be financially viable for one or two suppliers offering it. I came to the conclusion that it can't be. Since so few websites offer it I think my conclusion is correct. As a supplier you simply can't charge 25% more for a mask knowing that it's very likely more than one-quarter of them will be returned. See, if one-quarter are returned then you break even. If fewer than one-quarter are returned, you make money. If more than one-quarter are returned, then you lose money. My intuition tells me that if someone is going to bother to pay for mask insurance, then they're probably going to use it. Therefore, I believe that more than 25% of CPAP masks bought with CPAP mask insurance will be returned. There comes a point when insurance just costs too much. For example, if I thought half would be returned, then I could charge a 50% premium for mask insurance and break even. But you would probably think paying $90 for a $60 mask is sort of a rip-off, especially considering that if you go through two masks in this scenario you actually end up paying for two masks plus shipping!

So, we've stayed out of the mask insurance game, because it just doesn't make sense for us. I don't think it makes much sense for you either.

The other day we got a phone call from a customer who indicated they purchased a mask at another website that offers CPAP mask insurance. She purchased the mask insurance along with the mask, and received her order a few days later. Upon receiving the mask, the customer was concerned that it had been used. The mask packaging had clearly been opened, and the mask just didn't look like it was in new condition. She ended up calling the supplier who sold her the mask, told the supplier of her concerns, and sent the mask back. She then started a search for a new supplier, and happily came across our website.

[Light bulb turns on over Andrew's head...]

I believe this is the only way CPAP mask insurance can possibly work from the perspective of the supplier. Reselling used masks as if they were new. Basically the very definition of the word unethical. Obviously, I can't know if this is the standard practice among the two websites that offer CPAP mask insurance. And I can't verify the accuracy of the testimony we heard regarding the other supplier, although the customer seemed fairly believable. However, taking into account this story, it seems pretty clear that I likely made a big mistake when first analyzing the feasibility of offering mask insurance. I mistakenly assumed the rules of ethics should apply, and based my assumptions on the fact that all returned masks would be thrown away rather than reused. Of course, if a supplier just keeps recycling used masks, mask insurance makes perfect sense. For the supplier. Not for the customer.

Consider the following scenario:

There are two trains traveling toward each other starting 300 miles apart, one traveling south at a rate of 55 mph, the other traveling north at 73 mph...

Oh wait, wrong scenario. Consider this one, instead:

Joe buys a ComfortGel , normally priced at $59.99 without insurance, for $75 with mask insurance. He pays $8.00 for shipping, for a total purchase price of $83. Joe decides he doesn't like the ComfortGel and decides to exchange the ComfortGel for a Profile Lite, normally priced at $59.99 without insurance. He pays another $15 extra for mask insurance on the Profile Lite, plus he pays for shipping the ComfortGel back to the supplier, and he pays about another $8.00 for shipping of the Profile Lite. After three to five days of suffering without an adequate CPAP mask, Joe receieves the Profile Lite, likes it, and decides to keep it.

The total out-of-pocket expense for Joe is $114. Maybe more depending on shipping costs. The two masks purchased together could have been had for $120 (assuming free shipping on orders over $100, which is fairly common), and Joe wouldn't have had to wait to get a replacement. He would also have the benefit of owning a backup mask, even if it isn't the most suitable mask for Joe.

My point here is that mask insurance is basically a gimmick. Sure, you might save a couple of bucks (and it's entirely possible to actually lose money, too) compared with buying all the masks you've tried, but there are some serious drawbacks. First and foremost, you only end up with one mask even though you've paid for nearly the number of masks you've tried. Paying $114 for a Profile Lite is not a good deal even if you end up getting a brand new one. Getting a used Profile Lite for $114 that has been recycled through a supplier's mask insurance program is just a pity. I wouldn't wish it upon anyone.

Real mask insurance may very well come in the form of buying from a reputable retailer who asks all the right questions and takes the time to understand your needs as a CPAP user. You'll likely get the right mask the first time without paying a premium, and you'll get a brand new sanitary mask that hasn't been used by anyone else.

Now, if you'd like to go over some more numbers, go ahead and figure out when the two trains would meet!

Andrew Senske

CPAP-Supply.com is a leading online retailer of CPAP equipment. Located in Spokane, WA CPAP-Supply.com has been serving thousands of customers around the world since 2001. Founded on a belief that patients are their own best primary care providers, CPAP-Supply.com understands the importance of educating patients and customers on both the effects of and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. For more information visit CPAP-Supply.com or call toll free 1-888-955-2727. "

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