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'We’re desperate; people are dying': Crash survivors back again at Capitol to urge no-fault insurance law fix

Advocates say that the most recent portion of Michigan's no-fault auto reform law has cut off their access to vital medical care
No Fault Survivors at Capitol March 17
Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 17:33:31-04

LANSING, Mich. — Survivors of catastrophic auto crashes and their loved ones gathered at the state Capitol once again Wednesday afternoon to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that would guarantee their continued access to vital medical services.

Dozens of survivors made the trek out to Lansing to show lawmakers some of the true impacts the no-fault reform law is having on their lives.

“Our caregivers have continued to work at a dramatically reduced pay level; however, we were just speaking with our agency this week and they’re probably going to be cutting them altogether, so we'll be left with no caregivers at all,” Lesley Bush said Wednesday.

He and his wife, Sherry, worry constantly about their adult daughter Angela losing her care and medical equipment that her no-fault policy is supposed to provide.

"It's so inhumane how they’re treating her and everyone," Sherry said. "You wouldn’t treat dogs and cats at the kennel like this."

Advocates for survivors of catastrophic auto crashes say the no-fault auto reform law, in many cases, has made it extremely difficult to find the medical services they need to survive.

Under the new law, which took effect on July 2, 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.

People like Rachel Kolar, who was in a crash about eight years ago, have benefited greatly from no fault.

"I don’t know if I would have been anything without no fault; I'm so lucky to have no fault," she explained.

But now her family is having trouble getting the physical therapy that Rachel needs.

"They’re taking my ability to get better; I’m going backwards and regressing," she said.

Survivors and their families have shown up to the Capitol over and over since early 2021, trying to convince lawmakers to find a narrow legislative fix to the new medical-fee schedule that would guarantee their continued access to care.

Michigan Rep. Phil Green introduced such a possible fix, HB 5698, in January, with lots of legislative support. So far, that bill has languished in committee.

There were also a handful of bills introduced late last year with a similar intent, all of them failing to get any real traction in the legislature.

On Wednesday, a group of about 20 survivors and their families showed up to House Speaker Jason Wentworth's office in the Capitol building, hoping to speak with him about their concerns.

“We're just here because we’re desperate," Maureen Howell told one of Wentworth's staffers.

Howell's own son Sam was injured in a crash several years ago. Sam has been present with his mom at each of their visits to the capitol, passionately sharing their story with lawmakers.

"People are dying; families are in chaos; lives are being irrevocably changed,” Maureen said inside the speaker's office.

Wentworth never showed, and his office called security to have the group removed.

Despite yet another setback, the group is not dissuaded, and will continue to push for a legislative fix until they can rest knowing that their loved ones will always have access to the care they were promised when they paid into Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system.

Martha Levandowski, the administrative director of CPAN, an organization focused on preserving Michigan's auto no-fault system, told FOX 17 earlier this year that they have confirmed at least five crash survivors who have died since the changes went into effect.

Other advocates say at least seven crash survivors have since died.

These individuals allegedly deteriorated after losing some access to care.

A report, conducted by the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) and commissioned by the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI), was conducted between September and October of 2021.

According to their findings, 1,548 crash survivors have lost access to care since the most recent portion of the no-fault reform went into effect in July of 2021.

3,049 medical-care employees have lost their jobs.

96 care companies say they are no longer able to accept patients with auto no-fault insurance benefits, while 140 said they have had to "significantly reduce" their services.

21 care companies have had to completely shut down.

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

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