Over the Michigan Bridge
Car crash victims and service providers may have another opportunity to change Michigan’s auto insurance law without fault when Democrats take control of the Legislature in January.
A 2019 law that proposed major changes to Michigan’s insurance policies gave drivers the ability to choose coverage levels. The reform was aimed at reducing the state’s highest auto insurance costs and lowering average premiums to $2,639 in 2021 from $3,096 in 2019.
But the law also cut by 45 percent the amount that health care providers can charge to reimburse non-Medicare car crash survivor services — supporters of the change say it prevented patients from accessing high-quality care.
Overall, 4,082 healthcare worker jobs have been laid off since 2021, and 6,857 accident patients have been laid off since the policy went into effect, a study by the Michigan Institute of Public Health found.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she expects talk of ways to adjust the law could begin early next year. “There is work to be done here to ensure that the wounded can get the support they paid for. I’m interested in it.”
The Michigan Disaster Claims Association—a leading industry nonprofit that collects annual fees from Michigan motorists to help cover the medical costs of accident victims—has lowered its fees and, at Whitmer’s urging, issued Michigan drivers $400 per car reimbursement checks. at Whitmer’s urging after 2019. law.
The association recently increased its new annual per-vehicle estimates to at least $48 per vehicle per year following a recent Court of Appeal ruling that patients who began receiving auto injury care prior to the 2019 law are not are subject to change. . This decision is under appeal.
While reformists say the decision eased some pressure, they still push for legislative changes. “What we’re really looking for is a legislative solution that makes this all moot and we can just get back to restoring continuity of care for crash victims,” said Tom Judd, president of the Michigan Council for Brain Injury Care.
Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, is a physical therapist who has worked with people with catastrophic injuries and a longtime supporter of the pay schedule adjustment bill set out in the 2019 law.
“Vehicle uptime is life and death,” Rogers said. “For me, that really puts it at the top of the list of things to fix.”
Supporters of the existing law argue that the changes were a difficult but necessary compromise to keep costs down.
In a statement provided by Bridge Michigan, Michigan Insurance Alliance director Erin McDonough said the 2019 reforms have made insurance more affordable for tens of thousands of drivers and mean Michigan is no longer the most expensive state to purchase auto insurance.
McDonough said making sure those injured in car crashes get the medical care they need remains a priority for insurers, adding that the 2019 law was Michigan’s first attempt at creating a system of checks and balances for medical expenses.
“We’re calling for a broader view to ensure savings for Michigan consumers remain protected as the Legislature and Governor push for any assessment of reforms,” she said.
If Whitmer and future lawmakers can find a solution that amends the law without hurting the economy, current House Speaker Jason Wentworth said he has no problem, but none of the plans that have been unveiled so far will do that. he said. .
He does not plan to raise the issue in a parliamentary session before a new term begins next year.
“If there’s an opportunity to fix a perceived problem, I’m willing to address it from day one,” Republican Claire said. “I have never been offered a plan that actually fixes this and still saves money. So if they can take on that next term, great.”
William Brooke, an elected Republican representative from Erie, whose homecare business had two clients affected by the policy change, said one of his priorities is to find ways to fix legislation that was “well-intentioned” but negatively impacted businesses and residents. .
The 2019 law “has had good results as more people now have auto insurance, but it also had some negative impacts,” he said.
“We don’t do a lot of automotive business, but we had two clients in particular who were discounted by almost 60 percent and that kept us from taking care of them,” he said. “We are not alone in this… I am definitely ready to consider it.”
Rogers said that while she believes the focus should be on the needs of accident victims and the people who care for them, there are other changes worth considering that could make auto insurance less expensive.
“All the attention, why it was done in the first place, was due to insurance rates, right?” Rogers said. “The intention to change the law, which was a lower rate for everyone, hasn’t really gone into effect, and so I think we still need to look for ways to keep costs down.”