Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Dear Dr. Mahler:

Will pulmonary rehabilitation help me and where can I find such a program?

How much does it cost?

Thank you.

Casey from Nashville, TN

Answer from Dr. Mahler

Dear Casey,

Pulmonary rehabilitation will definitely help you!  Benefits are less breathlessness, better exercise tolerance, and reduced chances of having an exacerbation (sudden worsening of breathing, increased cough, and/or increased mucus) after completing a 6 – 8 week pulmonary rehabilitation program.

To find a program, ask your doctor or contact your local hospital. You will need a referral from a physician.

Medicare Part B pays if you have moderate to very severe COPD.  Currently, Medicare reimburses the hospital $39.31 per session with a copay of $7.02 here in New Hampshire.  These amounts may be different in Nashville. Many hospitals and clinics charge more than Medicare provides and a copay may be required. I suggest that you talk to the pulmonary rehabilitation coordinator about overall cost and insurance coverage. If you have health insurance with a private company such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the costs may be different.

Each program must provide the following five components.

  1. Aerobic exercise prescribed by a physician
  2. Education about your condition including smoking cessation if needed
  3. A psychosocial assessment
  4. An assessment of breathlessness, exercise ability, and/or quality of life.
  5. A treatment plan detailing how the components are used for each person.

I hope that this information is helpful.  Many people enjoy going to their pulmonary rehabilitation sessions because it is part of a healthy life style and you learn from others who have COPD.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.