Cathy Osten


Cathy Osten



February 7, 2019

Phil Pavone, Senator Osten Make the Case for Insurance Coverage of Motorized Wheelchairs

photo of Senator Osten.

State Senator Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) and Norwich business owner Phil Pavone brought their message of equality and hopefulness to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford today, where they both testified in support of a proposed bill that would amend state law to require insurance companies to provide more motorized wheelchairs to people in need.

Sen. Osten’s bill, Senate Bill 15, “AN ACT REQUIRING HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR MOTORIZED WHEELCHAIRS AND REPAIRS THERETO,” received its public hearing today before the legislature’s Insurance Committee, which will consider whether or not to approve the bill and send it on through the legislative process.

Pavone is well-known in the Greater Norwich area for his annual “Gift of Mobility” event where he collects, refurbishes, and then donates dozens of motorized wheelchairs and scooters to people in need. At an estimated cost of $4,500 each, Pavone has donated 580 motorized wheelchairs and scooters over the past nine years, saving residents more than $2 million.

Today, before the Insurance Committee, Pavone read from some of the several hundred letters that he has received from Connecticut residents seeking a motorized wheelchair, and he displayed a half-dozen photos of those he has helped.

“‘My brother is 57 years old. He had a stroke. He is completely paralyzed on the right side of his body. He is also right-handed and is now learning to use his left hand for functions,’” Pavone read. “This is another (letter)—this is about her husband: ‘He gets overwhelmed and frustrated easily because he wants to take an active role in raising our children, but he struggles to do basic activities . . . he has lost his spark for life and feels that he has failed me as a husband and has failed his kids as a father.’”

“I had no idea how important these chairs are to people. These chairs are a lifeline,” Pavone told committee members. “Every day, adults are calling me up and crying on the phone saying the same six words: ‘What am I going to do?’”

“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,” Sen. Osten said. “We also have a number of veterans who are not getting the resources they need.”

The Insurance Committee deadline for making a “favorable recommendation” on a bill is March 21.