LANSING, Mich. — Survivors of catastrophic auto crashes and the people who take care of them were back at the Capitol Wednesday in another effort to urge lawmakers into making adjustments to Michigan’s no-fault auto law, which they say is making it nearly impossible for them to access certain medical care.
Families and loved ones of crash survivors have been regularly making the trip to Lansing to speak with lawmakers since early 2021. Many of them have been gathering via a Facebook group called We Can’t Wait.
Survivors lay on the ground floor of the Capitol building, posing as if they were dead, surrounded by electronic candles and signs that read "This could Be your Loved One!".
Maureen Howell, mother of a crash survivor and advocate, said they were “Laying there representing those that have already died and those who will die in the future due to changes in auto no fault.”
Under our state’s new auto no-fault insurance law, which took effect on July 2, 2021, any medical service not already covered under our federal Medicare law, which includes in-home caregivers and transportation to medical services, will now only be reimbursed by insurance companies at 55% of what they were back in 2019. The law also caps the number of hours that family members can provide care to just 56 hours a week.
There are roughly 18,000 Michiganders currently receiving medical benefits from their auto no-fault policies.
According to advocates, these new rules have created a situation in which many local care providers have either had to shut their doors completely or stop accepting patients who receive benefits via a no-fault insurance policy.
According to CPAN, an organization dedicated to preserving Michigan’s previous no-fault insurance benefits, five crash survivors have already died after losing some form of medical care due to the changes to auto no fault.
On Friday though, a judge in Clinton County issued an opinion in a case that a crash survivor filed against their insurance provider, State Farm. Judge Shannon Schlegel said in her opinion that this new fee schedule cannot be retroactively applied to people who purchased insurance policies and were injured in the period before the new law went into effect.
CPAN says this is the fifth such instance of a circuit court judge in the state ruling that the new law can’t be applied retroactively.
Attorney George Sinas, who works with CPAN, says the Clinton County case will go before the Michigan Court of Appeals on June 7.
Sinas says the decisions made at that level could have state-wide impact.
"If they agree legally and conceptually with the ruling from Clinton County, then that will mean that everyone who got hurt before the law went into effect, and bought policies before the law went into effect, will not have their benefits limited," he explained Wednesday.
"So it's basically restoring these patients to the position they were in at the time they bought the policy, and the time they got hurt, which in my judgment is the only fair and appropriate interpretation of the new law."
But owners of local care providers say this process could take too long.
"The problem is, that may take another year and most of us don’t have a year; we're trying to keep our business afloat long enough that we can continue to provide care for our clients," said Nick Long, owner of Neurocare Home Health in Essexville.
"We’ve had to discharge some [patients] early ... we're just constantly looking at how we can further cut our budget and continue, but we're going to reach a point where we’re out of time."
Advocates say they will continue showing up at the Capitol, pushing for a legislative fix.
“We’ve tried so hard with letters and meetings and being at the Capitol," Howell said Wednesday.
"We don’t seem to be making the impact we need to make, so we thought can we touch their hearts and let them see the emotion behind this and why we fight so hard."
FOX 17's Coverage of No-Fault Auto Reform Care Crisis
May 17, 2021 — New Law Could Have Devastating Consequences
June 2, 2021 — "We're Paying the Price With Our Lives": FOX 17 Extended Coverage
June 9, 2021 — Hundreds of Survivors Protest at Capitol
June 10, 2021 — Rep. Berman Introduces Bill to Prevent Cuts
June 23, 2021 — Advocates Rally Again at Capitol
June 26, 2021 — House Approves $10M Fund
June 30, 2021 — Advocates Say $25M Isn't Enough
July 7, 2021 — Family Scared to Lose Caregivers
July 23, 2021 — Providers Begin Closing their Doors
Aug. 4, 2021 — Patients Continue to Lose Care
Sept. 24, 2021 — Changes Causing Chaos for Survivors
Sept. 27, 2021 — 'We Can't Wait' ArtPrize Entry Highlights Care Crisis
Oct. 4, 2021 — Protest Outside Business of SML Shirkey
Oct. 14, 2021 — Some Insurers Not Following Intent of Law
Oct. 27, 2021 — New Round of Bills Announced
Jan. 11, 2022— Report Says No Fault Reform Created Crisis of Care
March 16, 2022— Crash survivors back again at Capitol to urge no-fault insurance law fix