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Man diagnosed with ALS says insurance company denied special bed

Nick Williams was the head wrestling coach at Altus High School for 14 years.

He was forced into retirement this month after being diagnosed with ALS in March of 2017.

Three months after his diagnosis – he was in a wheelchair. He coached his last year from that chair.

“It really made me a better coach because I had to explain myself rather than I could just show them,” Williams said.

Every day activities are now a struggle for him.

“It’s just another wrestling match. It’s every day," Williams said. "You just, you just fight it, you know."

Williams has to rely on his wife just to help get him out of bed.

“She has to pull me around. We use sheets to wrap around me, and she pulls me around to roll me around," Williams said. "And, when I sleep about every hour, two hours, I have to be moved or my legs will just, it’s like almost a full cramp."

Williams’ doctor prescribed a lift and a special bed that can help move him around.

But, Williams got a letter from his insurance company, HealthChoice, saying the bed and lift had been denied. HealthChoice is the company that provides health insurance for Oklahoma’s teachers and state workers.

“I was just like how do you deny somebody something that was prescribed from a doctor, and it just kind of floored me,” Williams said.

News 4 reached out to HealthChoice on Tuesday.

And, Wednesday morning, Williams got a call saying everything had been approved.

“They approved the bed," he said. "They approved the lift, which they said we normally don’t approve but, all of a sudden, they’ve approved it."

Williams is grateful but said he’s upset over the delay.

The average life span after someone is diagnosed with ALS is just two to five years. For Williams, every day is precious.

“It’s ALS. It’s not a broke leg," he said. "You know, so when they buy the time, when they buy my time, they’re really buying my time."

Williams said he’s faithfully paid his premiums for 21 years and he’s glad the insurance company stepped up to get him what he needs.

But, he worries about others who may not be able to fight.

“You shouldn’t have to push the process," Williams said. "I mean, you got an insurance company doubting what the doctors are prescribing."

The Director of Public Affairs for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the office that administers the state’s self-funded insurance plan, sent us this statement in response to our story:

“HIPAA privacy laws restrict us from discussing details of specific cases. It is our understanding that the member is now satisfied with the resolution of the outstanding issues. HealthChoice is a non-profit health insurance provider and, as such, decisions are made to the benefit of the member and their health. The team at HealthChoice was already working to obtain information necessary to resolve the situation when we were contacted by KFOR, and we deeply regret any difficulties the member encountered in this process.”