Use of Anti-Snoring Device Rises

Opponents say home testing is less accurate. "To be adequately treated, you have to make sure patients are adequately diagnosed," says Mary Susan Esther, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a trade group representing sleep labs.

Proponents such as William Abraham, a sleep expert and chief of the division of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University, say the change makes it possible for more patients to get tested.

"By allowing home testing, perhaps Medicare is opening the floodgates," he says. Yet given the problems of untreated apnea, "it's not only the right thing to do, but may ultimately prove to be a cost savings."

Testing Centers Spread

Sleep testing centers, where patients stay overnight for observation, have boomed nationwide -- including in Lady Lake.

Across the USA, 1,475 centers are accredited by the sleep medicine academy, up from 857 in 2004. Sleep testing labs increased bed capacity nationwide by 13 percent in the past year and plan a 17 percent increase next year, says a July report by analyst Michael Matson of Wachovia Capital Markets.

"At one point, we had 16 beds" in sleep testing labs in the area, says Albino, whose center has four beds. "Sleep centers were seen as a profit-making venture."

Lady Lake and its surrounding community for the over-55 population, The Villages, has grown to more than 75,000 people in a few years. That's helped fuel the increase, Albino says.

Albino, who runs a sleep testing lab as part of his practice, says about four testing beds per 100,000 people is generally considered ideal. Lady Lake and its surrounding area have more than four times that number.

"This is a disease of the future," he says.

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