The Berrien County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution urging the Michigan legislature to correct a problem with the state’s auto insurance law.
The story begins a few years ago.
For years, there was a debate over Michigan’s auto insurance law. Opponents said it provided more insurance coverage than was necessary and was too expensive. The insurance industry was particularly critical of the law. Supporters said it provided the right amount of coverage and protected Michigan residents.
In 2019, the Michigan legislature changed the law. Supporters of the change said it would lower auto insurance rates. Opponents argued it would not lower insurance rates long term, and that it would hurt Michigan residents, because it would deprive them of the care they needed after a car crash.
The changes to the law took effect at different times. In July of 2021, a change to the “attendant care” section of the law went into effect. Attendant care is home health services for severely injured persons. It’s things like assisting with bathing, dressing, medications, food preparation, and home therapy. Attendant care is provided by a family member or a medical provider that sends a professional into the patient’s home to care for the patient.
The change to Michigan’s insurance law reduced the number of hours insurance companies were required to pay family members for attendant care from 168 hours per week to 56 hours per week. It also reduced the rate insurance companies were required to pay medical providers for attendant care, generally by 45%. In other words, most medical providers experienced a 45% reduction in the amounts they were receiving for the same services.
These reductions had dire effects on crash victims and their medical providers. For medical providers, the cuts to their rates made caring for crash victims financially unsustainable. For many, the cost of providing the services (hiring employees, training them, paying for equipment, etc.) exceeded their profits. They could no longer afford to remain in business, and many were forced to close their doors.
This left crash victims scrambling to find ways to meet their medical needs. Some began going without the services, putting their health in jeopardy. Others relied on family members to quit their jobs to provide the requisite care. The financial burden of this was made worse by the new law’s reduction in the number of hours insurance companies were required to pay for family-provided attendant care (the new 56-hour-per-week cap). Other crash victims had to move out of their homes into inpatient care facilities. These facilities typically have higher patient/provider ratios and are not equipped to provide the high level of care these patients need, putting patients’ health at risk.
Crash victims felt betrayed by their insurance companies. The new law is being applied retroactively so that people who paid their insurance premiums in exchange for the promise of lifetime, unlimited insurance coverage (including lifetime attendant care) are no longer receiving it.
This retroactive application is being challenged as unconstitutional. The challenge is moving through the courts, but crash victims need the care now.
Fortunately, the pleas of crash victims and their medical providers are not going unnoticed here in Berrien County, which brings us back to the present.
In a recent resolution, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners urged the Michigan legislature to amend the No-Fault Act to readdress the statutory cap on attendant care payments so that catastrophically injured crash victims can receive the care they need, and their medical providers can remain in business.
The Berrien County Clerk is also forwarding copies of the adopted resolution to the governor, legislature, and the other 82 counties in Michigan.
Conybeare Law Office hopes that the other counties will take similar action and that the governor and legislature will act to address the needs of catastrophically injured crash victims and their medical providers.