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Insurance Company Does About-Face After CBS 2 Report On Abla Gharib, Woman Denied New Motorized Wheelchair

CHICAGO (CBS) — From Chicago to California, people have reached out asking for updates and offering help since we shared the story of a North Side woman who was denied insurance coverage on her motorized wheelchair.

BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois suggested that Abla Gharib try to push a manual wheelchair instead, even though she lost much of her hands and lower legs years ago.

As CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas reported, the insurance company is now doing an about face.

Gharib is a fighter. She went through four amputations back in 2001 due to toxic shock syndrome.

Her motorized wheelchair broke down in early 2019, and she found herself in a fight with BlueCross BlueShield.

“It’s really important for us to be able to live in the community and be independent and go about their business and be able to take care of ourselves,” Gharib said.

A wheelchair company generously loaned Gharib a chair to use while she argued with BlueCross, but even that chair is wearing down now.

BlueCross denied Gharib’s appeal and suggested “the patient might be able to move a wheelchair with their arms.”

Gharib’s doctor said the chair was medically necessary, but BlueCross said it was not.

The CBS 2 Morning Insiders then told Gharib’s story, and within days, BlueCross sent her a new letter.

“They responded to me that they’re going to cover partial,” she said.

Gharib and her doctor are still fighting for coverage on an elevated lift system they had requested. But BlueCross agreed to cover a new motorized wheelchair.

“I appreciate the efforts of everyone that helped me like you guys, I really appreciate it – CBS’ effort and your effort, Tim, and I appreciate the doctors effort and the therapist,” Gharib told McNicholas. “I really appreciate that. That meant a lot to me, it really did. That means there’s a lot of great people out there. I really appreciate it. Appreciate all the support.”

And that’s not all Gharib appreciates. Multiple viewers reached out to CBS 2 wanting to help. A nonprofit called Devices 4 the Disabled offered a new chair for free.

“The appropriate medical equipment gives you your life back. That sounds dramatic but it’s a statement of fact,” said Bob Shea of Devices 4 the Disabled

Mary Clare Bonaccorsi of the Polsinelli Law Office even offered legal help to Gharib pro bono.

“You see somebody individually, and you see somebody so vulnerable in this case,” Bonaccorsi said. “It did touch me.”

“Kudos to them and we certainly appreciate that generosity, but the primary objective is, she’s got health insurance and they’re supposed to cover these kind of devices and help get them coverage through their primary need,” said Gharib’s physician, Dr. Mark Huang.

Gharib said she may take them up on the offers if there are more lags with BlueCross, but for now, she is just grateful the offers are there.

Meanwhile, we have learned Gharib is not the only one who has faced this issue. The Morning Insiders are working on another story about what you can do to fight back against insurance companies’ denials.

That story is coming up on Friday morning.

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