Proposed Bill Would Require Insurance Coverage For Motorized Wheelchairs

A proposed bill in Connecticut would require insurance companies to cover the costs of motorized wheelchairs for those who need them.

The concept hits close to home for one Norwich business owner.

Phil Pavone, owner of AZ Pawn in Norwich, is the founder of AZ Pawn Gift of Mobility. He has collected, refurbished and given away around 580 motorized wheelchairs and scooters for about a decade, saving people in need an estimated $2 million.

“He gets overwhelmed and frustrated easily because he wants to take an active role in raising our children…” Pavone read from a letter a woman sent him about her husband. “While he tries to remain positive and do the best he can, he is just existing, not living.”

Pavone read that note to the Committee on Insurance and Real Estate Thursday in favor of proposed Senate Bill 15 that would “require health insurance coverage of motorized wheelchairs, including used motorized wheelchairs, repairs to such wheelchairs and the replacement of batteries for such wheelchairs.”

“These chairs are a Godsend for these people,” Pavone said.

Many times insurance won’t provide a motorized chair, including to veterans, according to Pavone. He’s even helped a Holocaust survivor.

“The Nazis actually broke her legs to the point that she can’t walk and she was given a regular wheelchair…because of her age, she’s 90-something years old, she didn’t have the strength to go anywhere,” Pavone said.

Democratic State Sen. Cathy Osten, of Sprague, introduced the bill along with Sen. Steve Cassano and Sen. Heather Somers.

Osten submitted information to the committee from the Office of Legislative Research that read, “Neither state nor federal law explicitly requires health insurance policies to cover motorized wheelchairs.”

In a statement, Osten said, “These are brave, independent people who are really in very bad situations who are not getting a lot of consideration and who do not have the resources to fight the insurance companies. Once a decision is made, they live with that decision.”

For the bill to move forward, the committee would need to make a favorable recommendation by March 21.

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