Troubleshooter: Wheelchair help

February 4, 2008 4:36:14 PM PST
A special troubleshooter report tonight that was inspired by an earlier investigation.

In November, we introduced you to the Woodward's. They're a Wake County family all dealing with disabilities. We chronicled their battle to get electric wheelchairs and scooters their doctors said they needed but they went through denials with their insurance company. Well, shortly after Troubleshooter Diane Wilson got involved the problems got solved and the Woodward's are now able to get around.

Then after seeing that story, another Wake County family called us with an insurance problem and Troubleshooter Diane Wilson got right to work on it. This story involves in Nolan Williams. He's battles degenerative muscular dystrophy and also has a pacemaker. Just to make a trip to his mailbox is a struggle. He tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "I'm going full blast and this is all I got. My hands hurt; it feels like they're on fire. My shoe tips get all worn out. If you keep doing this kind of hard work all the time, you end of getting weaker because your muscles break down over time and get weaker."

Nolan says he's been fighting his insurance company for an electric wheelchair. He adds, "I can't get around without some sort of power source." Nolan says he needed it to fulfill his dream of being a student at NC State. He says, "Trying to get around college is nearly impossible for anyone using their two feet let alone using their arms as their feet. There's no way for me to get to class on time, or for me to even have the strength to get to class each day. I had to drop out because there's no way for me to push to get around." Nolan says he dropped out of NC State after Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia repeatedly denied requests for a specific kind of electric wheelchair.

He tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "All they have to do is sign this piece of paper that I can have this chair and everything would be changed instantly. BCBS of Georgia turned down two different requests for a hi-tech wheelchair called the iBOT Mobility System so Nolan's doctor re-requested just a standard electric wheelchair but Nolan said he heard nothing. He tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "It's like a slap in the face, all the money you put into the system and all the time and energy you spend fighting for this and it's like almost their laughing because they know they can do whatever they want. It's like I'm too small to do anything."

Nolan got Troubleshooter Diane Wilson involved. When she asked BCBS of Georgia about the repeated denials they said it wasn't because of cost. They told her they didn't approve the iBOT Mobility System request because they didn't consider it medically necessary for any condition. They also said they were prepared to approve a different kind of electric wheelchair months ago, but didn't get a formal request in writing. Troubleshooter Diane Wilson asked about the written prescription Nolan's family says their doctor faxed TO BCBS of Georgia and they say they never got it.

Still, BCBS of Georgia promised to work with Nolan and soon Nolan got great news. BCBS approved an electric wheelchair for Nolan and he's enjoying it. He tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "It's great. I couldn't ask for much more, it does everything and more." It should. It's top of the line and costs $34,000. Nolan adds, "It's like no effort what so ever, it feels like I'm sitting in my lazy boy in my living room. It saves me about 80% of time and 80% of energy. It's life changing really I can go to the mailbox in like 20 seconds." And talk about life changing, Nolan is now back at NC State. He tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "I already signed up for three classes."

BCBS of Georgia also added they're committed to helping and working with Nolan over the long-term.


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