Quadruple amputee waits for wheelchair with no answers from insurance

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HAWAII (KHON) — A quadruple amputee has been waiting for his wheelchair for more than a year.

Maui resident Michael Jiga, 53, called KHON2’s Action Line for help after getting nowhere.

Jiga fell ill with pneumonia back in 2013. He lost both arms below the elbow, and both legs below the knees that August.

“I don’t feel I got anything to complain about, you know? Everything is okay,” he said.

While he won’t complain, he does want to know, “When am I gonna get my wheelchair?”

We’re told his insurance company promised him a wheelchair, among other things. But more than a year later, Jiga is still waiting.

Kaitee Lusk helps Jiga to and from hospital visits. She says his friends on Maui donated a wheelchair.

“Even a donated wheelchair is better than no wheelchair,” Jiga said.

But the type of wheelchair Jiga needs as a quadruple amputee costs around $30,000.

He has Medicaid insurance under United Healthcare. We’ve reached out to them multiple times to find out what’s taking so long, but they haven’t gotten back to us.

“It’s all just falling on deaf ears. It’s gotten nowhere,” Lusk said.

So we reached out to the Hawaii Disabilities Rights Center.

“He can certainly call us and we can take a look at it. We get a couple cases a month expressing similar concerns,” said executive director Lou Erteschik.

The Hawaii Disability Rights Center gets at least 25 complaints a year on similar issues.

“There are less vendors in Hawaii now willing to take certain insurance coverage, because the reimbursement rates are so low. It doesn’t pay for them to do so,” said staff member Jennifer Patricio.

There is a bill going through the legislature intending to help anyone with issues involving wheelchairs. It’s meant to help patients by increasing the availability of medical supply vendors in Hawaii.

That could help Jiga, but Erteschik says “probably in terms of immediate future, the smartest thing to do is to contact us… In every case we’ve gotten involved with, we’ve had some success unraveling what the particular issue is.”

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