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Does Medicare Cover Asthma Inhalers?

  • Medicare with Melissa

Every breath you take is a silent testament to your body’s ceaseless work. It’s an intricate dance between your lungs and the air around you, an exchange so effortless you hardly ever think about it. But if you’re living with asthma, each inhalation can be a battle. A crucial tool in managing asthma is the inhaler. Acting as a portable lifesaver, inhalers deliver medication directly to the lungs, offering instant relief or long-term control. Keep reading to learn all about Medicare’s coverage for asthma inhalers and other options to help manage the costs associated with your respiratory care.

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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic condition that impacts the airways, which are the transport routes that carry air in and out of your lungs. Within the context of asthma, these airways become inflamed and swollen, which makes them extremely sensitive. This hypersensitivity means that when an asthma sufferer encounters certain triggers, their airways react strongly, narrowing and producing excess mucus.

The range of triggers can be extensive, varying from person to person. Common triggers include allergens such as dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, and pollen from plants. Non-allergic triggers might include cold air, extreme emotional arousal such as stress or fear, physical exercise, and irritants in the air, like smoke or chemical fumes. Additionally, some people may experience symptoms in response to certain medications, like aspirin, and other health conditions like acid reflux or sinusitis.

As these triggers provoke the airways to narrow and become clogged with mucus, they severely limit the amount of air that can pass into the lungs. This results in classic asthma symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing), and persistent coughing. The severity and frequency of these symptoms can vary greatly. Some people have mild, occasional symptoms, while others face significant limitations, interfering with daily activities or resulting in life-threatening asthma attacks.

While there is currently no cure for asthma, the condition can be effectively managed with the right treatment plan, which often involves avoiding triggers, monitoring symptoms, and using medications. This approach helps to control inflammation, prevent asthma attacks, and maintain normal lung function, allowing those with asthma to lead fulfilling, active lives.

What is an Asthma Inhaler?

An asthma inhaler is a handheld device that delivers medicine directly to the lungs, serving as a lifeline for those managing asthma. The medication is either a spray or a powder that you breathe in, making it a quick, effective, and convenient way to treat asthma symptoms or prevent them from occurring.

Inhalers are essential for asthma treatment because they allow the medication to go straight into the lungs with minimal side effects. The immediate delivery of medication to the affected area provides rapid relief from symptoms and can help to control the underlying inflammation in the lungs. There are two primary types of asthma inhalers: rescue inhalers and control inhalers.

Rescue inhalers, also known as reliever inhalers, are used during an asthma attack. The medication they contain, typically a short-acting bronchodilator, acts swiftly to relax the tightened muscles around the airways, opening them up for easier breathing. This results in immediate relief from acute asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. However, rescue inhalers don’t address the underlying inflammation associated with asthma.

Control inhalers, also known as preventative or maintenance inhalers, are used daily to manage asthma over the long term. They contain medications like corticosteroids that reduce inflammation in the airways, making them less sensitive and less likely to react to asthma triggers. They don’t provide immediate relief from symptoms but instead work overtime to prevent asthma attacks and maintain daily control of asthma.

In addition to these two types, there are also combination inhalers which contain both a long-acting bronchodilator to keep airways open and a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation.

Common Asthma Inhalers

Inhalers have become a primary mode of delivering medication for asthma. Each inhaler type serves a specific purpose and the medication within varies based on the intended use. Here’s a closer look at some common asthma inhalers:

Ventolin: This is a brand name for a type of rescue inhaler that contains the medication albuterol. Ventolin works quickly to relax the muscles in the airways that tighten during an asthma attack. This action opens up the airways, providing immediate relief from symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. While Ventolin can halt an asthma attack in its tracks, it doesn’t control the inflammation that makes the airways sensitive to begin with.

Symbicort: This is a combination inhaler that contains two medications: budesonide, a corticosteroid, and formoterol, a long-acting bronchodilator. The corticosteroid works to reduce inflammation and sensitivity in the airways, while the bronchodilator relaxes the muscles around the airways, helping to keep them open over a longer period. This dual-action makes Symbicort an effective control inhaler for managing persistent asthma.

Albuterol: Albuterol is the medication found in many rescue inhalers, including Ventolin. It’s a short-acting bronchodilator that provides quick relief from acute asthma symptoms by relaxing the tightened muscles around the airways. Albuterol inhalers are an essential tool for those suffering from asthma, helping to mitigate the effects of an asthma attack.

Flovent: Flovent is a control inhaler that contains the corticosteroid fluticasone. It’s used regularly to control chronic asthma by reducing inflammation in the airways, preventing them from reacting strongly to triggers. Flovent doesn’t provide immediate relief, but instead, helps manage asthma symptoms over the long term.

COPD Inhalers: While these inhalers are typically prescribed for those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), many are also effective in treating severe asthma. These inhalers often contain long-acting bronchodilators, corticosteroids, or a combination of the two, all designed to reduce inflammation and keep the airways open.

As you can see, different types of inhalers serve different functions. Therefore, understanding your specific needs and the correct use of each inhaler is key to managing your asthma symptoms. Be sure do you talk to your doctor if you have any questions about using an asthma inhaler.

Does Medicare Cover Inhalers?

Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit, provides coverage if your doctor prescribes an asthma inhaler as part of your treatment plan. However, the extent of coverage can vary depending on the specific inhaler prescribed and the individual Part D plan you’re enrolled in. Each Part D plan has its own formulary, or list of covered drugs, and inhalers can fall under different tiers within those formularies. The tier your inhaler is in can significantly influence how much you pay out of pocket.

For this reason, having a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan is crucial if you need regular medication, such as an asthma inhaler. Ensure that you carefully review your plan’s formulary to understand which drugs are covered and how much you’ll need to pay. If your inhaler isn’t covered or is very expensive under your current plan, it may be worth exploring other Part D plans during the annual enrollment period.

It’s also important to note that a doctor’s prescription is necessary for Medicare Part D to cover your inhaler. The prescription validates that the inhaler is medically necessary for your treatment, ensuring Medicare provides coverage.

Additionally, if you require a nebulizer, you’re covered under Medicare Part B. Nebulizers are considered durable medical equipment (DME) and are therefore covered by Medicare Part B, not Part D. Medicare Part B covers the nebulizer machine itself, nebulizer medications, and certain accessories like masks or mouthpieces.

While dealing with healthcare coverage and medication costs can feel overwhelming, understanding the nuances of your Medicare plan can help ensure you get the coverage you need for your asthma treatment. Always remember to consult with your healthcare provider or a licensed agent if you have any questions about your Medicare coverage. You can speak with a Senior Healthcare Solutions Medicare expert today at 866-MEDIGAP (866-633-4427).

Get Help Paying for Asthma Inhalers

If you’re struggling to afford your asthma inhaler, you’re not alone. Some seniors with asthma face financial barriers when it comes to accessing the necessary medication. Fortunately, there are several options that can help alleviate this burden. Here are several to explore:

Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs: Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs for their medications. These programs, often called Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), can provide medications at a reduced cost or even for free to individuals who qualify based on income, insurance status, and other factors. Check the website of the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your inhaler or visit resources like the Partnership for Prescription Assistance to see if you might be eligible.

State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs: Some states offer assistance programs that help with the cost of prescription medications. These programs vary from state to state, so it’s worth researching to see if your state provides this kind of aid.

Extra Help from Medicare: If you have limited income and resources, you might qualify for Extra Help, a Medicare program designed to aid individuals with prescription drug costs. This program can lower the cost of your drug premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.

Medicaid: Medicaid programs vary by state, but they typically provide comprehensive drug coverage for low-income individuals and families. If you qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare (known as being “dual eligible”), your prescription drugs will typically be covered by your state’s Medicaid drug coverage.

Prescription Discount Cards: Prescription discount cards can offer significant savings on medications, and some are specifically designed for Medicare recipients. These cards are often free and can be used at many pharmacies.

Explore Different Part D Plans: As mentioned earlier, each Part D plan has a different formulary, and the cost of the same inhaler can vary significantly from one plan to another. During the annual enrollment period, take the time to compare plans and see if a different one might offer better coverage for your specific inhaler.

It’s important to be proactive if you wish to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle and manage your asthma symptoms effectively. Be sure you leverage every resource available to you if you’re struggling to afford an asthma inhaler.


Living with asthma isn’t easy but having a proper understanding of your insurance coverage can make the journey much more manageable. While Original Medicare doesn’t cover asthma inhalers, Medicare Part D does provide coverage. Additionally, nebulizers are covered under Medicare Part B because they are classified as durable medical equipment (DME).

Give us a call 866-MEDIGAP (866-633-4427) if you have any questions about Medicare coverage for asthma inhalers. At Senior Healthcare Solutions, we’re here to help you with all your Medicare needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need further assistance. We’d be happy to help!

Meet Melissa MacCalla

Medicare is not simple and can be hard, frustrating, and downright confusing for most. I love when I get someone on the phone and I am given the opportunity to explain the difference in plans to them and have Medicare make sense. I enjoy talking to clients year after year, hearing about their families growing or them asking about mine.


Oh my gosh!! I was so confused about the Medicare Supplement process. I am turning 65 soon and am retired and have always had insurance thru my former employer. I didn’t know a thing about going on Medicare and was struggling to sort it all out.

A friend of mine recommended contacting Senior HealthCare Solutions, so I did. Melissa was FANTASTIC!! She was professional, responsive, caring and friendly. She explained the steps I needed to take, gathered my information, helped me choose good plans for MY specific needs and took care of my applications over the phone. 1-2-3, eesy-peesy and I was done!! And it didn’t cost me a DIME!!! WOW!!! I HIGHLY recommend Senior Healthcare Solutions for anyone who’s overwhelmed with making the right choices with Medicare Supplemental Insurance and Rx coverage. It’ll take a load off your mind!

Janice W.

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