7 On Your Side helps woman get broken wheelchair replaced

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney helped a woman with multiple sclerosis get a new wheelchair after Medicare refused her request.
December 3, 2013 7:44:56 PM PST
Ann Vidmar, a San Ramon woman with multiple sclerosis finally has the working power wheelchair that Medicare first approved for her last year.

This comes after 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney stepped in three different times to help. And over the course of an entire year, was finally able to clear the final hurdle.

As late as October, her husband John Vidmar said she was ready to give up.

"She already said 'I don't want a chair just forget about it.' I said 'no way, you should get it,'" John said.

The situation reached a critical stage last year when she was weak and constantly falling.

"I'm very scared. I kind of shake inside and there's nothing I can do. I know I'm falling, but I can't grab anything," Ann said.

John showed us an area in the house where he found her one day lying in a pool of blood after she struck her head in a fall.

It was after that incident that Medicare approved Ann's request to get a power wheelchair.

There was only one problem. The couple says the chair she got from the scooter store didn't work.

"The chair was not used at all because she couldn't use it. It was unusable," John said.

John said for five months, they unsuccessfully pleaded with the scooter store for help and finally decided to call 7 On Your Side.

We contacted the scooter store and it immediately agreed to take the chair back.

But Medicare refused to approve Ann for a new one because it said the scooter store didn't return the money it received for the original chair.

Again, the Vidmars called 7 On Your Side complaining once again about the scooter store.

"After Channel 7 got in touch with them, they returned the money," John said.

It would later become public that scooter store was under investigation for Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

It ultimately closed down after Medicare removed it from a list of authorized vendors.

But the Vidmar's troubles were not over.

Medicare refused to approve Ann for a new wheelchair and instead constantly asked for more paperwork.

"Everything they told me to do, I did and still it didn't work," Ann said.

This went on for another five months. So the Vidmars called 7 On Your Side a third time.

This time we called Medicare and spoke with David Sayen, the regional administrator.

He says a medical need must be documented before the power wheelchair can be approved.

"So that can take some time, but it should happen in a couple of days," Sayen said.

If it takes longer that, a Medicare patient should call HICAP, the health insurance counseling and advocacy program.

HICAP volunteers are standing by to help you navigate the bureaucratic maze.

What happens when you call HICAP?

"I think what they're going to get is somebody that's familiar with the Medicare process, somebody that's worked through similar situations with other people," Sayen said.

Medicare declined to comment on Ann's case specifically.

But shortly after being contacted by 7 On Your Side, Medicare approved Ann's power wheelchair.

"This is beautiful. 7 On Your Side, they work for me really well," Ann said.

Open enrollment for Medicare ends December 7.

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