LANSING — Advocates for reforms to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance laws are frustrated with perceived inaction as the state Legislature breaks through the holidays.
Tom Judd, executive director of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council, said in a statement that feelings of hope and optimism from just weeks ago have been “diminished with the inaction in the House before the early adjournment of this session.”
“It is a hard pill to swallow for all these stakeholders to hear that they need to wait further while reasonable solutions are available,” he said.
In early October, hundreds of crash survivors, caretakers and advocates gathered at the state Capitol to show their support for the reforms that they say would correct catastrophic changes made in 2019.
In 2019, reforms to Michigan’s auto insurance laws significantly reduced insurance reimbursement for crash survivors that required care services, effectively causing thousands of Michigan residents receiving care to lose the services they had relied on and increasing personal costs for those that continued to receive it.
Following the rally, all three bills in a package to raise reimbursement rates and expand coverage were passed by the Senate 23-14 with some amount of bipartisan support. But none were considered by the House before they adjourned for the remainder of 2023.
Judd encouraged Rep. Brenda Carter, who chairs the House Insurance and Financial Services Committee, to continue working towards a solution to the challenges the 2019 reforms brought to crash survivors.
Carter, D-Pontiac, said in a statement that the committee has taken “a deliberative approach to understanding the system and any problems yet unresolved because of reform.”
“Patients without care is unacceptable, and making people choose between rent and complying with the law because of high rates is equally abhorrent,” she added. Carter said work on the issue would continue over the holiday break and further conversations and “a solution” would be reached when the session resumes in 2024.
Tim Hoste, president of the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault, said in a statement that he was “confident” the Legislature would send the bills to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk in 2024.
Judd said that his organization looks forward to “fair and balanced hearings in her committee and the opportunity for our elected officials to end this sad chapter in Michigan history.”
Barry Cargill, president and CEO of the Michigan HomeCare and Hospice Association, said that he remained optimistic about the passage of reforms in 2024 but blasted lawmakers for breaking before reaching a solution.
“The suffering has gone on for four years,” he said in a statement. “Legislators going home with auto no fault reimbursement still unfinished is heartlessly unimaginable.”
In October, Judd said the measures would help crash survivors live quality lives and “end the crisis in care.”
“It is never too late for justice, never too late to right a wrong,” he said. “It is never too late to end suffering and it is certainly never too late to save lives.”
Judd said as of April 2022, nearly 7,000 patients had been discharged from their home care regiments and over 4,000 healthcare workers had lost their jobs due to the changes. Mary Cavanagh, D-Redford, has co-sponsored the new measures and spoke about the need for reform at the rally. “Lives have been lost due to the stripping of care and the inability to afford lifelong personal caregivers,” she said. “We cannot ignore these very real life and death consequences any longer.”
Sen. John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, said he’s seen support for crash survivors throughout his time in Lansing. “If we are able to make this change legislatively, it is 100% because of their efforts,” said Damoose. “Because they have been diligent, they have been there every day.”
Damoose, who supports the legislation, said the measures were receiving bipartisan support and would hopefully be signed into law.
“If we can pass a law here where these people get the coverage they deserve and they paid for in the past — to help out those families, I think it’s nothing but good,” he said. “That’s the type of thing we should be doing.”