By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The estate of Chuck Close, the artist known for massive photorealist portraits of himself and others, on Wednesday sued Cigna Corp, claiming it failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for necessary medical care in the final years of his life.
Close, who died in August 2021 at age 81, had used a wheelchair since 1988 when he suffered a spinal artery collapse, and later suffered from other medical conditions including frontotemporal dementia diagnosed in 2015.
His estate said Cigna, the claims administrator for Close's group health plan, was "intimately aware" of his health and need for skilled nursing care, yet failed to properly reimburse him from 2017 until his death.
The estate is seeking $686,723 in "wrongly denied benefits" plus interest, in a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
Cigna did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
According to the complaint, Cigna in late 2018 demanded that Close reimburse $357,684 in overpayments for services that the insurer said were specifically excluded from his policy. Close's estate said those services were covered.
Close's larger-than-life portraits featured many well-known subjects, including the composer Philip Glass and model Kate Moss. The portraits could be indistinguishable from photographs when reproduced, as in books.
In 2017, several women accused Close of sexually harassing them several years earlier when they came to his studio to pose.
Close told The New York Times at the time he had spoken to the women about their bodies while evaluating them as possible subjects, and apologized if he had made anyone feel uncomfortable.
The case is Estate of Close v Cigna Health and Life Insurance Corp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-07449. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)