LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The current situation with Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance laws isn’t just affecting the people who are currently injured. There are many implications for everyone else in the state as well. Patient advocates say that while it may sound attractive to pick a lower cap on no-fault auto insurance reimbursement to save a little money on premiums, it is not in the best interests of Michigan drivers. A lower $250K cap on the insurance company’s reimbursement for care can be wiped out after a few weeks in the hospital with nothing left to pay for rehabilitation or long-term care.
Many patient advocates have told Michigan News Source that the state of our health care in Michigan was top-notch before the changes to the no-fault auto insurance laws came into effect in 2019. Large parts of our health care system were built around auto no-fault so if someone ended up going into the hospital with a stroke or something else and needed rehabilitation, they received excellent care. Now, with more than 100 rehab centers being closed after the new legislation took effect, the choices for a person’s care are limited with some people going into nursing homes where they don’t have the skills needed to care for a severely injured auto accident victim and most going into home care to be taken care of by relatives.
Maureen Howell, the mother of an auto accident survivor and Capitol advocate with We Can’t Wait (WCW), a group of more than 8,500 people created for catastrophically injured auto crash survivors, families, providers and friends, says that about 600 people a year in Michigan are getting into auto accidents and needing long-term care.
Howell told Michigan News Source that even if the lawsuit is successful in the Michigan Supreme Court in March to keep the same coverage for patients who were injured before the 2019 law went into effect, everyone else after that date is still stuck with the current law. She said legislation is needed to change this. There is still a 45% cut to the caregivers taking care of the injured patients. She said that because of this, the business “First Call Home Care” turns away about three people a week who can’t find care. Besides the rehab companies who have gone out of business, others like First Call Home Care can’t take in no-fault auto insurance patients any longer.
WCW isn’t just concerned about the patients who were injured in auto accidents before 2019 who might or might not have their contracts reinstated to get the care they paid for. They are also interested in the rest of Michigan’s drivers as well. After years of writing letters, making phone calls and participating in demonstrations and protests and visits to the Capitol and meetings with legislators, WCW wants a permanent fix to PA21-22, the legislation that changed Michigan’s no-fault law in 2019. WCW, which was formed in April of 2021, was a spin-off of an earlier smaller group of about 20 people who were trying to make sure their loved ones got the care they deserved – and paid for within their insurance contracts. The group has grown substantially since then and is a clearinghouse of no-fault auto insurance information.
Members of WCW are still waiting, 563 days after the implementation of the second part of the auto no-fault insurance reform, for a legislative fix for future survivors. They are hopeful that the legislature is more aware of this crisis and that the Governor is interested in addressing this issue. Survivors and agencies providing their care really just can’t wait.
To her credit, even though Governor Whitmer had signed the no-fault auto insurance legislation changes into place, she has expressed an interest in looking at changing the law. She told Bridge Michigan in November of 2022, “There’s work to be done here to ensure that people that are injured can have the supports that they paid for. I’m interested in pursing that.”
Tom Judd, President of Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council also told Bridge Michigan, “What we are really looking for is a legislative solution that makes all of that moot (the Supreme Court ruling) and we can just get back to restoring the continue of care for crash victims.”
However, not everything will be able to be fixed says WCW member and mother of an auto crash survivor, Linda St. Amant. The closed facilities and caregivers who left the health care field will most likely not be coming back and that makes care for auto accident victims unavailable to many. St. Amant says that it’s not “something that can be brought back just because there is a change of heart.”
St. Amant added, “We had exemplary care here in Michigan because of auto no-fault. So you benefitted whether you were a stroke patient or recovering from a heart attack. We had amazing therapies right here in Michigan.”
WCW says that changes implemented by the no-fault auto insurance law in July of 2021 are having “devastating consequences on survivors and families, now causing a humanitarian crisis.”
Many Michiganders don’t know or understand how much the new law affects them and that’s where WCW comes in. Peggy Campbell, whose sister was paralyzed in a crash, started the group and website to inform the public on the impact the law has to everyone in the state.
The following is information from the WCW website which outlines how different groups of Michiganders are impacted by the no-fault auto insurance law.
Drivers who purchase policies with PIP (personal injury protection insurance) caps and sustain catastrophic injuries will spend their benefits within a few weeks, if not sooner. Yet many drivers will require care for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, money saved through reduced PIP premiums will likely be offset by increases in liability premiums required under the new law as well as purchasing umbrella coverage.
Seniors or others on Medicare who opt out of injury protections will lose access to long-term care, residential treatment programs, case management services, vehicle modifications, and more.
Pedestrians, Public Transportation, and Cyclists
The new law caps at $250,000 the amount of care you will receive if you’re a pedestrian, cyclist, senior who no longer drives, children riding in uninsured vehicles, people using public transportation, or anyone involved in a car crash who doesn’t have auto insurance coverage.
The post-acute care industry, which provides rehabilitation services to victims after they leave the hospital, is being destroyed by the arbitrary fee schedule cut of 45% imposed by this law. It is forcing many care providers to close their doors and layoff thousands of employees, hurting Michigan’s economy.
The reduction in PIP premiums is based on the statewide average. So, if you live in an area with historically high rates like Detroit, the reduction you’ll see will be significantly less than residents in other areas.
The new law eliminates guaranteed lifetime coverage for motorcyclists involved in car crashes—instead, if they are in an accident, their level of care will depend on the level of coverage carried by the car driver who caused the crash – regardless of the level of PIP coverage they purchased under their own auto policy.
Michigan businesses renewing their fleet insurance are experiencing significant increases in their premiums due to the legal exposure the PIP choice options create. In addition, healthcare insurance will likely increase as health insurers will need to shoulder the costs of auto accident injuries.
Many victims require around-the-clock care, and family members have often quit their jobs to care for them. The new law limits reimbursements for family members who care for accident victims to 56-hours per week. Now they are forced to hire outside agencies to care for their loved ones and allow strangers in their homes. But the agencies have closed or no longer accept no-fault patients because of the 45% cut to reimbursements. So they care for their loved one 24/7 while only being paid for 56-hours and cannot seek outside employment because they cannot leave their loved one unattended. Families are losing their cars, homes and forced to move in with elderly parents or others.
With fewer benefits available, more crash victims will be forced into medical bankruptcy and onto Medicaid, which is paid for by Michigan taxpayers. Still others declare bankruptcy and must place their loved one in a nursing home that is not equipped, trained or staffed to care for the disabled, catastrophic survivors. Now the taxpayers are financing the care instead of the insurance companies under the policies families purchased to cover such injuries.