Gaps in sleep apnea insurance coverage highlighted at listening session

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 5/25/2016

A representative of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association told a panel Wednesday, May 25, in Los Angeles that many of his group’s 125,000 members do not have insurance that covers testing and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

The comments came during the last of three public listening sessions regarding an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration about a possible sleep apnea regulation. The FMCSA and FRA published the advanced notice on March 10 to receive feedback.

Kevin Walgenbach, of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, said his group opposes any sleep apnea testing mandate. 

“Contrary to some other comments that have been made, not all medical insurance covers OSA screenings, treatments and the equipment that may be necessary,” said Walgenbach, vice president of compliance and regulatory affairs for the NRMCA. “Through our survey, we have found that there is coverage out there that many of our members do have that may cover in large part or in full everything that is related to OSA. But we have also found that there are a good number of coverages out there that don’t cover it at all or there is partial coverage or some sort of employee-employer partial share. From our survey, we found that drivers in our industry without insurance are paying $2,000 annually. We’ve seen numbers as high as $12,000 or $15,000.”

Walgenbach said the cost to drivers isn’t warranted if there is no proof it will improve safety.

“Driver fatigue can arise from many different factors beyond OSA,” he said. “Accidents in large trucks can arise from many different factors beyond OSA. If you move forward on this, it should be based on sound science, concrete data and comprehensive analysis.”

Walgenbach said his group is working to fully compile all of the data from its survey so it can be submitted to the FMCSA and FRA before the June 8 deadline for comments.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has requested an extension to submit comments on the issue so it can properly review results from another survey that is being conducted by the American Transportation and Research Institute.

Allen and Donna Smith, of, submitted an online comment on Wednesday, saying that they joined OOIDA in requesting an extension in order to make use of the survey.

“We’d like to join OOIDA in requesting a 60-day extension to allow us time to review the study,” the Smiths wrote. “We believe it will give us a better understanding of obstructive sleep apnea and how to move forward.”

Previous listening sessions were in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Written comments regarding possible sleep apnea requirements can be submitted at the website or by mailing Docket Services, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001. You are asked to identify whether you are in the transportation industry or medical profession, but you can choose to remain anonymous.

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