Tens of thousands of catastrophically injured auto accident survivors have lost critical health care due to some of the disastrous amendments made to Michigan’s auto no-fault law in 2019. Over 14 months after the no-fault auto insurance legislation went into effect, the Michigan Court of Appeals rightly decided that insurance companies could not retroactively restrict access to long-term care to individuals previously injured in car crashes.
The ruling was much-welcomed news. Eliminating essential care for those who had been catastrophically injured after they had paid for that benefit, in an original policy, was never the intent of the Legislature. But insurance companies came to a much different conclusion and retroactively applied the new auto no-fault insurance laws to people who had been in a catastrophic accident prior to the legislation taking effect.
This has devastated a community of people in desperate need of care and support. Since July 2021, thousands of survivors have lost access to vital health care, care providers have seen a drastic reduction in reimbursements, businesses have been forced to close, health care workers have lost jobs, and people have tragically died because of these changes.
As a state representative, I’ve heard from several constituents in my district about how the auto no-fault reform has harmed them or a loved one. This isn’t unique to my district either. In fact, I’m part of the bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators who are working to ensure we preserve cost savings in premiums for drivers, but also provide the care that’s needed for those who have been catastrophically injured.
A number of bills from both parties have been introduced to address this crisis and mitigate the harm being done to the catastrophically injured. In April, I introduced House Bill 6001 to require that when the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) is statutorily mandated to issue refund payments to consumers, those payments must be issued within 30 days. HB 6001 was part of a 10-bill package aimed at addressing concerns related to transparency and accountability in Michigan’s auto no-fault law. Unfortunately, none of the bills in this package or any other legislation introduced during this term have been given a hearing in the House Committee on Insurance.
Children, permanently injured, are having their benefits cut. Caregivers’ wages are slashed. A few people stand in the way of necessary reform. We need hearings and public debate in order to rectify the wrongs. Many of us, on both sides of the aisle, are ready to move on these bills, and we welcome all the help we can get.
While some of the no-fault reform is working, we need a legislative fix that preserves cost savings for drivers and saves medical care for those injured. As a lawyer, I have practiced both sides of no-fault, and there are MANY players to blame for high costs, but the people paying the price are accident victims and their caregivers. Often, the caregivers are family members that have given up their lives to help their loved ones.
While the reforms were not intended to be retroactive for people already injured — that is what has happened. With the Court of Appeals ruling, we are hopefully seeing a light at the end of the very dark tunnel so many have been forced to navigate over the last 14 months.
While this ruling will almost certainly wind up in the Supreme Court (it is also being remanded back to the Circuit Court), the Court of Appeals affirms that a party to a contract cannot unilaterally and retroactively modify an insurance policy. I absolutely will be following up with the providers and victims to ensure their medical care is provided as soon as possible.
We are better than this. I’m calling on the Michigan auto insurance companies and my colleagues in the Legislature to stop their opposition and work together with me on a fix to this disastrous consequence of this “reform.” We owe Michiganders, survivors and providers better than this.