Caretakers frustrated with insurer over man's wheelchair - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Caretakers frustrated with insurer over man's wheelchair

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Arnold Conover is 44 years old and lives with Erica O'Keefe, his wife and caretaker.

"He moved in here when he was 25 so it's been 19 years," O'Keefe said.

Conover suffers from several different disabilities, including cerebral palsy and severe scoliosis.

"Which is why he needs the custom chair. That's a big piece of it," O'Keefe said.

His chair is old and is broken in certain places.

O'Keefe has been trying to get a new one from his insurance carrier and every time the paperwork is submitted, she says she gets forms saying the company needs justification from the size of the wheels to the style of the arm rests, to brakes on the back wheels.

O'Keefe said she can't understand it.

"The foot lock in the back that we use to lock the chair, they want justification for that so he won't roll down the street. It's getting kind of silly. There's a whole list of things," she said.

O'Keefe said she's gone back and forth with the insurance company for the past two years.

Conover's physical therapist Bob O'Brien said the chair is more than 10 years old and a new one isn't a luxury – it's a necessity.

"You can't even get replacement parts for that chair anymore," said O'Brien said.

O'Brien said the situation has been frustrating.

"The paperwork keeps going back and forth all the time. We resubmit and we'll try a different type of seating system. They say they won't pay for that, but we'll try another. But (Conover) is the type of patient that needs a customized chair," he said.

The paperwork from O'Brien supporting the need for a replacement chair has been field. Despite the delay, Conover's caretakers refuse to give up.

"I'm going to keep going. I've been on this for two years. I'm going to keep on going," O'Brien said.

O'Keefe wants the insurance company to know it isn't fair.

"This is his life. This wheelchair is his life. This is where he sits, eats," she said.

Conover said he's frustrated too.

"I mean how many times are you going to run into a stone wall before you give up? This is something he really does need. This is how he gets around," O'Keefe said.

UnitedHealthcare told NBC 10 that it is unable to provide details regarding individual members under health privacy laws, but the insurer said it is looking into the issue.

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