auto insurance

Dimland

LANSING – The public has no right to see the records of an insurance fund that puts a fee on cars to pay for catastrophic injuries. That’s the opinion of the Michigan appeals court.

The Appeals Court said today that the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is not covered by a public records law.

It overturned a 2012 decision by an Ingham County judge.

The insurance fund was created by the Legislature to reimburse insurance companies for claims that exceed $500,000.

A political controversy in Lansing that just won’t die is back: auto no-fault insurance. There is yet another Republican effort to muscle through an auto no-fault overhaul, this time being led by state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

There’s a lot in this proposal, released just yesterday, but one of the main things is a cap on the state’s currently unlimited medical benefits if you are injured in a crash. Under the Bolger plan, these benefits would top out at $10 million. Other parts of the proposal include limits on hospital fees and payments for in-home care, incentives to avoid litigation, and a guaranteed rate rollback in the first two years of coverage.

Essentially, there is something in this plan for all of the special interests that have a stake in the auto no-fault system – hospitals, insurance companies, trial lawyers – to dislike. But, Bolger says, bring it on.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Legislature is considering bills that would overhaul auto insurance in the state.

There are several aspects to this. Jake Neher with the Michigan Public Radio Network joined us today to help us wade through what has been proposed. 

Listen to the full interview above.

So, whatever happened to moderates in politics? It seems everyone is an ideologue and "compromise" is a dirty word. On today's show, we talked to a former Republican leader who says the disappearance of the moderate is becoming a real problem in his party.

And, we talked with a "genius."

The MacArther Foundation has announced this year's "genius grants," and one of the 24 who has been recognized as an exceptionally creative individual is from the University of Michigan.

And, the new Common Core Curriculum does not require that kids learn cursive, but is that really what is best?

Also, shoplifting is now a felony in Michigan. What does this mean for consumers and shop owners?

And, a music student at the University of Michigan will have his work performed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. We talked to him about his piece.

First on the show, the Michigan Legislature is considering bills that would overhaul auto insurance in the state.

There are several aspects to this. Jake Neher with Michigan Public Radio Network joined us today to help us wade through what has been proposed. 

rick4mi.com

When it comes to trying to wiggle out of paying for auto insurance, the creativity of some Michigan drivers seems to know no bounds.

But to all of those drivers who think they're getting away with auto insurance fraud, the Michigan Secretary of State has a warning: "We're on to you."

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is announcing the creation of a task force to fight fraud in auto insurance all across Michigan.

Secretary of State Johnson joined us today from Lansing.

Listen to the interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is launching a campaign to crackdown on auto insurance fraud.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says her office will be working with the Michigan State Police, local prosecutors and the insurance industry to catch people selling and using phony auto insurance policies.

She says a one day snap shot of more than 3 thousand auto registration renewals using paper insurance certificates found 16% were using phony auto insurance.

Johnson says many of the scams are quite sophisticated.

user H.L.I.T / flickr

State lawmakers from Detroit say they will put forth their own package of bills to overhaul m auto insurance in Michigan.

The Democrats oppose Governor Snyder’s plan to cap insurance payouts for catastrophic car accident injuries at $1 million.

Snyder and some Republicans say Michigan’s unique “no-fault insurance” policy bumps up Michiganders’ auto insurance premiums. They say their proposal will bring those rates down by $125 per vehicle for at least one year, with possible future savings.

michigan.gov

Some members of the legislature are once again proposing changes to no-fault auto insurance in Michigan. They say it will save auto owners money. Opponents say the plan is good for insurance companies, but not for accident victims.

Everybody seems to agree auto insurance in Michigan costs too much.

Governor Rick Snyder and the chairs of the Senate and House insurance committees explained the latest plan to reduce the cost.

“In this legislation it would specify that premium costs would come down by $125 per vehicle in the first year and then hopefully because of competition and other things could even see that increase in later years,” Governor Snyder said.

That one-year guarantee of savings would come because of a reduction in the Personal Injury Protection part of auto insurance.

L. Brooks Patterson addressing the Oakland County Commission.
screen grab of Oakland Co. video

A proposed reform to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance is circulating in the Legislature.

Among other things, it would cap benefits for people who suffer severe injuries in auto accidents at $1 million.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has come out as a strong opponent to this legislation.

Patterson is still recovering from a serious auto accident he had last summer, and his driver, James Cram of Owosso, was paralyzed from the neck down.

In this interview with Jennifer White, Patterson talks about his opposition to the proposed legislation and his recovery.

You can listen to the full interview above.

Patterson wanted to be clear that he and his driver were working at the time of their accident.

Their medical bills are covered by worker's compensation, so Patterson says his opposition to changes to Michigan's no-fault insurance laws are not for his own benefit.

"Did the accident make me more aware and more sensitized to the plight of people who suffer from catastrophic injuries? Absolutely," he said.

Last week, Governor Snyder announced plans to introduce legislation that, if passed, would essentially mean that insurance companies and the state would no longer provide virtually unlimited benefits to those injured in catastrophic car accidents.

Currently, victims whose health care costs exceed half a million dollars have their care covered by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association. The governor would cap those benefits at a million dollars. The next day, his proposal was attacked by an opponent who called it, “an embarrassment to the Republican party.”

“The governor misses the big picture,” he added. What is most interesting about this is that the man attacking the governor‘s idea is not a liberal Democrat or a leader of a victim‘s rights group, but one of the state‘s most prominent conservative Republicans, L. Brooks Patterson, the longtime czar of Oakland County.

Brooks knows what he is talking about. Last August, he and his driver were T-boned in a car accident that very nearly took their lives. Patterson was in a coma for days, suffered multiple broken bones and was in the hospital for nearly two months.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possible plan to lower auto insurance rates in the state, a bill to require drug tests for welfare recipients, and the arrests made at the University of Michigan over immigration protests.

There was a lot of criticism of President Obama for devoting so much time to his health care plan during his first year and a half in office. Some felt he should have also tried to get through a massive job creation plan, or a program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. However, he did succeed at getting what we now call “Obamacare” passed, and it is now transforming medical coverage.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder wants to lower auto insurance rates

Governor Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to make changes to Michigan's no-fault auto insurance system. The Governor says Michigan has the highest insurance rates in the Midwest and have the eighth highest rate in the county.

"Right now, people critically injured in an auto accident can receive unlimited lifetime medical benefits. Under a plan announced yesterday, that amount would be capped at $1 million dollars," Jake Neher reports.

Michigan House approves bill against indefinite detention

"The Michigan House has approved legislation that would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from helping the federal government indefinitely detain American citizens without charges," the Associated Press reports.

Weather update

More flooding and a return to wintry weather in places are being seen as spring storms prompt evacuations in parts of Michigan. More rain is expected today. We might even get some snow this afternoon in West, Mid Michigan and Flint. The Grand River in Grand Rapids is expected to crest on Sunday, just inches below the 100-year flood level.

Toby Oxborrow / Flickr

Depending on where you live in the state, your auto insurance rates could be outrageously high.

During the last session of the Michigan Legislature, there was an attempt to change the state’s auto no-fault insurance with claims that it would lower rates.

This is something the auto insurance agencies keep lobbying for, and Governor Rick Snyder said in his State of the State address we need to keep costs down.

But there’s little evidence that your insurance rates would go down that much, or at all, by these limits.

That’s because the real reason auto insurance is so high in some areas is theft, fraud, and uninsured motorists.

The part of no-fault that guarantees someone severely hurt will get the reasonable care they need is just a fraction of the cost, and some would argue the best bargain in the nation.

Joining me now is a lawyer who, we should point out, fights the insurance companies over claims on a regular basis.

Steven Gursten is with the law firm Michigan Auto Law.

Most of us find auto insurance coverage a little confusing at best, so we started off by explaining what catastrophic coverage is, and what the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lawmakers are getting ready to consider changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance law.

At the same time a court battle over a fund that reimburses auto insurance companies for large claims continues.

When you file a personal injury claim in Michigan of more than a half-million dollars, your auto insurance company gets reimbursed by a state-created fund. It’s basically an insurance policy for insurers.

The fund that pays those reimbursements is facing a lawsuit that says it should provide more information about how it comes up with an annual fee that ultimately gets passed on to drivers. It’s appealing a circuit court decision saying that information is subject to public information requests.

Pete Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the appeal.

“Literally 90 percent of what was required to be disclosed under the judge’s recent ruling is already out there for public consumption,” Kuhnmuench said.

Plaintiffs in the case say lawmakers need a complete picture as they weigh proposals to change the state’s no-fault law.

A judge has ruled the organization which sets the mandatory fee for no-fault auto insurance must disclose how it calculates the fee. 

user H.L.I.T/Flickr

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that the MCCA fee is $145 per driver. It is, in fact, $145 per insured vehicle. If you own, and insure, two cars, the fee would be $290.

 

A coalition of trial lawyers, unions and victim advocates is going to court seeking data on accidents and insurance payments.

Lawmakers who want to change Michigan’s no-fault insurance system say the current system is unsustainable. But fans of no-fault say the data will show the system is financially sound.

The problem is the information is held by an industry group that does not want to release the information. The group sets an annual assessment on drivers to pay the health care bills of the most-critically injured people.

“This knowledge is being hidden from us, from the Legislature, from the public," said George Sinas, a personal injury attorney who opposes plans to change no-fault. "We are deeply committed in this lawsuit in seeking an end, in seeking a lifting if you will of this shroud of secrecy.”  

Sinas says the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association should be forced to release the information because it was created by the Legislature, and because every driver has to pay the fee.

But the insurance industry disagrees.

"The MCCA is not a public body," said Pete Kuhnmuench, president if the Insurance Institute of Michigan, an industry association. "It’s not even a policymaking body. It’s a payment mechanism. It collects assessments from insurance companies and then it reimburses insurance companies for expenses they have relative to a private contract.”

Kuhnmuench says state insurance regulators make sure the MCCA assessment is fair and that consumers are protected. The MCCA assessment on every insured vehicle in Michigan is $145 this year.

user bettyx1138 / Flickr

The Michigan House of Representatives is expected to bring HB 4936 to the floor for a vote soon.

That legislation would significantly change Michigan’s auto no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

Here is a quick overview of what we have now, the proposed changes, and the potential consequences of those changes.

1. What we have now

There’s some confusion about changing no-fault. It’s not the “no-fault” part that would change. It’s the Personal Injury Protection portion of auto insurance that would change.

A coalition of rehabilitation centers and people injured in car accidents is trying to stop proposed changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance benefits.

The Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault is hosting town hall meetings across the state to educate people about the proposed changes. They’re also inviting people impacted by a major car accident to share their stories.

Michigan legislators are considering changing insurance benefits for people badly injured in auto accidents.  The sponsors of the legislation say it will lower the price of auto insurance.  Some analysts say it will mean people who are severely hurt won’t get the care they need and argue in the end won’t save much money at all.

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

Michigan legislators are looking at changing the state’s mandatory auto no-fault insurance.  But some of the legislators say the information they need from insurance companies to make an informed decision has not been available to them.  Regulators say legislators and the public wouldn’t be able to understand the information even if it were made available.

Ifmuth / Flickr

A proposal to drastically alter the state’s auto no-fault insurance law could come up for a vote as soon as this week in the state House. The House proposal includes a $50,000 appropriation that protects the measure from a voter-led ballot initiative to overturn the law via a referendum.

Democratic state Senator Bert Johnson says using referendum-proof language to shield controversial measures from being overturned by voters is a dangerous political game.

“We think that that limits voter protection as well. People should always be able to come and petition their government for what they believed the right thing is. And that’s the foundation of democracy in America, that’s what we’re built on," Johnson says.

If the proposed changes to the no-fault insurance law are approved as currently written, it would be the fourth time this year the Republican-led Legislature passed referendum-proof bills that were not part of the state budget.

Update 3:35 p.m.

A state House committee has approved major changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance.

The legislation would cap medical fees and restrict the kind of care people who are badly hurt in car accidents could get.

As it is now, if someone is catastrophically injured in a car accident, no-fault Personal Injury Protection pays for all necessary medical and rehabilitation expenses.

It’s unlimited, lifetime benefits if necessary.

This new bill would limit medical fees, and it would give motorists the choice to purchase $500,000, $1 million, or $5 million worth of coverage.

After that, you’re on your own.

Flickr

Hundreds of people showed up at the Capitol this week to speak for or against a proposal that would dramatically alter Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law.

The overwhelming majority of the people were in favor of keeping the state’s lifetime medical coverage for injured people.

If the law is passed, and people don’t like it, the Michigan Constitution allows voters to challenge it with a referendum, but the Republican sponsors have found a way around that.

At the end of the 42-page bill that would require drivers to choose the level of auto insurance coverage they want, and end guaranteed lifetime medical coverage, there is an appropriation of $50,000.

The stated purpose of the $50,000 appropriation is to help implement the change in law.

Republican state Representative Pete Lund said the money is needed for a report and study on the effects of the law.

The framers of the Michigan Constitution wrote that any law that appropriates money is referendum proof, and they did that to ensure that the full faith and credit of the state is not jeopardized.

Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases on whether people who use a family vehicle without permission are covered by no-fault benefits if they are injured in a crash.

In one case, Ryan DeYoung was excluded from his wife’s insurance policy.

In September of 2008, he got drunk, took his wife’s car without permission and crashed the vehicle.

The hospital and recovery center billed the insurance company, which denied the claim.

The insurance company is challenging an appeals court ruling that says DeYoung was covered under “joyriding” clause that typically covers teen-aged drivers who take their parents’ vehicles without permission.

In a separate case, an insurer is challenging a ruling that Craig Smith Junior was covered for injuries he sustained when he crashed his father’s SUV into a tree while driving drunk.

Smith did not have a valid license, and had been told not to drive the vehicle. The insurance company tried to deny coverage because Smith broke the law when he took the wheel of his parent’s car.

A fight is brewing at the state Capitol over whether Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law should be changed.

Backers of the legislation want drivers to be able to opt out of coverage that provides unlimited lifetime benefits for the most severely injured accident victims.

Pete Kuhnmuench, with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, says the option would save people money:

"We think putting more money back in the pockets of the consumers we think now is the right time to do that, given our economics," says Kuhnmuench.

A study commissioned by the measure’s opponents says most drivers would choose to underinsure themselves to save money.

The study says that would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

We received a lot of reaction from people about our story on the potential consequences of eliminating the mandatory personal injury protection (PIP) part of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance.

This seemingly bureaucratic story about potential changes to Michigan's insurance laws has a lot of devastating human stories behind it.

Robbie Howell / Flickr

The Michigan legislature is considering bills to end the state’s mandatory no-fault auto insurance.  Its supporters say it will give consumers more choices and help reduce cost of auto insurance.  Opponents say it’s a misguided effort that will have very little effect on insurance rates and could mean people who suffer injuries won’t get the help they need to fully recover. 

Kristin Howard was driving, taking an interstate to work on a summer day in 2006 when her life was changed forever.

bettyx1138 / flickr

A Detroit lawmaker thinks he has the answer to that city’s high rate of uninsured drivers.

State Senator Virgil Smith wants to create a pilot program that would allow Detroit drivers to sign up for bare-bones insurance policies with reduced rates. The idea is to cover medical costs up to $50,000 a person, or $100,000 an accident. Right now, the state’s no-fault law requires unlimited personal injury coverage. Smith says that’s hampered efforts to reduce urban insurance rates.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In one study, Michigan had the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. In another, Michigan ranked 11th in the nation.

That's according to a piece from Dawson Bell at the Detroit Free Press. Bell writes both studies cited "the state's unique mandate for unlimited coverage for personal injuries as a primary cause for high rates."

From the article:

Michigan auto insurance rates led the country -- $2,541 a year for a hypothetical 40-year-old man with a clean driving record -- in an annual survey released last week by the consumer insurance information site insure.com.

The Michigan rate jumped more than 21% from the same survey a year earlier, overtaking Louisiana, which topped the list last year.

Vermont, at $995 a year, was the cheapest place to buy auto insurance, the survey found.