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Car wreck survivors and loved ones demand House lawmakers take up no-fault auto insurance reform

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Car wreck survivors and loved ones demand House lawmakers take up no-fault auto insurance reform

Jun 13, 2024 | 5:34 am ET
By Lucy Valeski
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Car wreck survivors and loved ones demand House lawmakers take up no-fault auto insurance reform
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Protestors sing and chant while laying done on the Michigan State Capitol lawn on June 12, 2024 | Lucy Valeski

Updated on Thursday, June 13 at 12:30 p.m.

 

Auto crash survivors were joined by their friends, families and auto insurance reform advocates on Wednesday on the Michigan State Capitol lawn. They laid in the grass with lilies, sang “Yesterday” by The Beatles, chanted, raised signs and ate lunch together. 

“Tate, Tate, we can’t wait,” protestors chanted in unison, referring to Michigan House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit).

The protesters want Michigan House lawmakers to vote on a bill that would make health care more affordable and accessible for people who get into catastrophic car wrecks and require long-term, around-the-clock care. 

Linda St. Amant is an advocate for reforming the 2019 law reforming auto insurance. Her son was injured over two decades ago in a car accident, and she continues to be his primary caregiver.

“We’re not out here because it’s fun,” St. Amant said. “We’re out here because we have lived it.”

While supporters hailed the 2019 no-fault auto insurance overhaul as a way to lower prices for motorists, it has received backlash for limiting health services to even the highest paying consumers. The bipartisan package was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In the past few years, some lawmakers have worked to change the law, so wreck victims can receive better care through improved compensation for family health care providers and set rates that insurers will reimburse for a variety of services, including long-term care and physical therapies.

Car wreck survivors and loved ones demand House lawmakers take up no-fault auto insurance reform
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the auto insurance reform bill signing, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Prior to 2019, Michigan drivers paid the highest auto insurance prices in the country, but health providers received reimbursements from insurers for long-term care, in the case of a catastrophic collision. 

Now, three years after the implementation of auto insurance reform, Michiganders still pay one of the highest rates in the country, and according to patient advocates, deal with dwindling access to health care.

Senate bills that would amend the 2019 reform (SB 530 and 531) set fee schedules for reimbursements to health care providers for a variety of long-term services and care relating to a catastrophic collision. 

Last summer, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that people who were receiving care prior to the rule change in 2019 could continue that care under the old policy

However, Maureen Howell, the mother of someone who was seriously injured in a car crash, says this case lacks teeth and is difficult to enforce. 

Sometimes, victims of a car wreck will deal with brain or spine injuries that leave them needing a full-time caretaker, a role family members will often fill. The new rules would allow those caretakers to receive pay for providing health care. Current laws only allow care providers to receive reimbursement for up to 56 hours, which is only about one-third of weekly care many patients need. 

Peggy Campbell, the founder of no-fault auto insurance reform advocacy organization We Can’t Wait, said family members will sometimes quit their jobs to take care of someone who became disabled in a collision. This can be due to a lack of options caused by the lower reimbursement rates or the reliability of family care. Campbell helps care for her sister, who was severely injured in a collision. 

“Families are forced to take care of their loved ones,” Campbell said.“Because if they don’t, the alternative is to put them in a nursing home that’s not equipped. It’s not staffed. People aren’t educated for caring for these catastrophic injuries.” 

After a car crash, doctors said Courtnie Bush was brain dead. Now she’s graduating.

St. Amant said she works around the clock to take care of her son, which includes constantly getting up at night to make sure he is OK. 

The plan for reform of the current no-fault auto insurance system passed through the Senate with bipartisan support in October. However, the bills remain stuck in the House. Howell said she believed there is bipartisan support to pass the bills.

Amber McCann, a spokesperson for Tate, told the Advance that there is no timeline for taking up the Senate-passed auto insurance legislation.

“Chair Carter has been engaged in many conversations on the topic and Speaker Tate has been clear that any reform in addition to the 2019 change should be one that also helps to further reduce the cost of car insurance for Michiganders,” said McCann.

Protesters expressed frustration with Whitmer for signing the bills in 2019 and failing to back the reform package. Additionally, Campbell said she has had a difficult time getting a meeting with House leaders and wants the opportunity for more dialogue with lawmakers. 

“We just get brushed off,” Campbell said. 

This story has been updated to include a statement from Speaker Tate’s office.