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New no-fault auto law could have devastating consequences for Michigan family

Aaron Russo No Fault family
Posted at 2:17 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 14:17:17-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The family of a man with severe brain trauma is facing a haunting reality once the state's new no-fault auto insurance laws go into effect on July 1. Aaron Russo, now 40-years-old, has had 24/7 in-home care since he was severely injured in a 1994 car crash. With the new law, his family could potentially lose the caregivers he has long relied on.

Signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer back in May of 2019, Michigan Senate Bill 0001 includes a new fee schedule that will drastically alter the amount of money insurance companies will cover for in-home care for people in catastrophic car crashes.

"We're horrified. We don't know what will happen. Like I said, we can't do it ourselves," Renee Westbrook, Arron's mom, told FOX 17 Monday morning.

Renee currently has about 5 caregivers that split up their time caring for Aaron. The caregivers are facilitated and paid through Health Care Associates out of Grandville. Health Care Associates is then reimbursed for the cost via the family's insurance company.

Under the new law though, while Aaron's family will still technically be eligible for round-the-clock care, the insurance companies will now only reimburse about 45% of what they previously did. Meaning, Health Care Associates would either have to start paying caregivers less than half of their previous wages or take a huge financial loss.

In reality, it will likely mean that the family won't have access to quality caregivers or caregivers at all.

"Because of his accident, his brain can't control his body temperature, and it can go way low or way high. It has to be monitored constantly," Aaron's mom explained.

"He can hurt himself and will if he's able, he has to be monitored. His breathing at night, we monitor, and during the day, he can't feed himself."

Larry Treece, President of Health Care Associates, says there are somewhere around 18,000 people in Michigan currently being cared for under no-fault auto insurance.

There are currently 2 bills in the Michigan Legislature attempting to address these impending problems with the new law soon going into effect— Senate Bill 314 and House Bill 4486.

Health Care Associates has another 25 people in similar situations to Aaron's. Treece is hopeful that lawmakers will work quickly to address what could be a devastating scenario for thousands of families across the state.