no fault auto insurance

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.

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At the state Capitol, House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, says he still hopes to get an overhaul of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law through the Legislature this year.  He rolled out a new plan to end Michigan’s unlimited lifetime medical benefits coupled with the promise of a rate reduction.

“We do seek to ensure more drivers, make our auto insurance more affordable,” said Bolger at a news conference to announce the proposal.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It could be a busy December for state lawmakers after they return from their Thanksgiving break.

Here are some of the issues that could come up for debate before the end of the year.

Paying for the Medicaid expansion delay – In a procedural vote earlier this year, state lawmakers delayed by about two months the implementation of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion law. In doing so, they created a hole in the budget of more than $70 million.

Legislative leaders say passing a bill to fill that hole is one of their top priorities in the coming weeks.

Insurance sure is a hot political topic these days with hearings in Washington on the glitches with the HealthCare.gov website, and the recent fight in the Legislature over the Medicaid expansion. So what better moment to re-kindle the controversy over Michigan’s auto insurance rates and the no-fault law?

Which is exactly what Governor Rick Snyder did this week when he re-started talks among the groups with an interest in an overhaul of the law. That includes doctors and hospitals, insurance companies, and trial lawyers – all major political players in Lansing.

And, certainly, people who’ve been injured in car and truck accidents have a big stake.

Auto insurance is intensely political. (So much so that some states even have elected insurance commissioners.) Pretty much everyone runs the risk of being hurt in a crash, and everyone who owns a vehicle - under Michigan’s no-fault insurance law - is supposed to carry liability coverage.

People are always upset by insurance rates, but none more so than people who live in cities with high premiums. Cities like Detroit and Flint.  Insurance rates actually affect elections. Some city dwellers use out-of-town addresses on their driver’s licenses and voter registration to get lower rates, which also means they don’t vote in local elections.

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.

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.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has set some new limits on expenses that can be claimed under auto no-fault insurance coverage by people injured in car crashes. 

Kenneth Admire used handicapped-accessible vans since a 1987 auto accident. Three times before, his insurance company paid the entire cost of the modified vehicles.

This last time, though, the company said it would pay for the modifications, but Admire has to buy the van.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit Democrats propose auto insurance reform

Democratic state lawmakers from Detroit are proposing their own strategy to overhaul auto insurance in Michigan.

“The Democrats oppose Governor Snyder’s plan to cap insurance payouts for catastrophic injuries sustained in car accidents...Detroit caucus members say they’ll propose other measures, like requiring insurance companies to justify rate increases,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

Flint’s EM recommends income tax increase

Flint’s emergency manager says his budget plan for the next year is balanced, but he warns that without new tax revenue sources, the city will again fall into debt.

“[Emergency Manager Ed] Kurtz says the loss of grant funding and declining property tax revenues will leave the city millions of dollars in the hole each year through 2018. Kurtz says Flint needs to raise its city income tax rate. Otherwise, Kurtz says Flint will face another round of budget cuts, including to police and fire,” according to Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody.

Salaries for state officials expected to stay the same

“A state salary commission is expected to recommend no salary hikes for the governor or legislators. Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders sent word they’re not seeking bigger paychecks. There could be a battle over judges’ salaries, though, when the State Officers Compensation Commission meets today. Some judges have asked for a bump after a 10-year salary freeze,” Rick Pluta reports.

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.

Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson is recuperating from serious injuries he suffered in an auto accident.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

One of Michigan’s most well-known Republicans has some harsh words for the state House GOP leader.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson appeared today on the Michigan Public Television show “Off the Record.”  Patterson said state House Speaker Jase Bolger has abused his power, and compared him to the leader of Nazi Germany.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A proposed overhaul of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system has cleared its first legislative hurdle. A state House panel passed the bill on a party-line vote, with Democrats all voting "no."

Right now, people who are severely injured in an auto accident can get unlimited lifetime medical benefits.

The legislation would cap those benefits at a million dollars.

Many people who testified against the bill said people who are already injured would lose benefits they were promised.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

No-fault overhaul moves forward

"A state House panel has voted on a bill to overhaul Michigan’s auto no-fault system. Right now, people who are severely injured in an auto accident can get unlimited lifetime medical benefits. The legislation would cap those benefits at $1 million," Jake Neher reports.

House adopts wolf hunting bill

"The state House has approved a measure that would allow an Upper Peninsula wolf hunt to go ahead regardless of a referendum on the question," Rick Pluta reports.

Health insurance for live-in partners stays

"A decision to provide health insurance to same-sex domestic partners of Michigan state government employees is intact. In an order released Thursday, the state Supreme Court unanimously declined to hear an appeal filed by Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette. The state health insurance plan covers non-family members who've lived continuously with state workers for at least a year," the Associated Press reports.

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers will start debating controversial changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system this week. State House Insurance Committee Chair Pete Lund introduced the legislation on Tuesday.

He says he expects to hold several committee hearings on the issue to give lawmakers time to understand and discuss it.

“I don’t know if in their time in Lansing they’re ever going to have an issue that’s quite as complicated as this. And there’s so many different pieces involved that it’s really going to take time for people to sit down, look it over, and figure it out.”

Last week, Governor Snyder announced plans to drastically limit benefits for those terribly injured in catastrophic auto accidents. And, as expected, legislation to do that was introduced yesterday.

Acting on behalf of the governor, State Representative Pete Lund of Shelby Township introduced two bills that would radically change how much care the badly maimed can get.

Currently, those benefits are administered and paid by an agency called the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, usually called MCCA. That would be scrapped in favor of a new Michigan Catastrophic Care Corporation, which would cap medical coverage at $1 million. Once a severely injured person’s care hit that limit, they would be out of luck. 

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Drug tests for welfare recipients

A bill which would require drug tests for welfare recipients has moved forward in the Michigan legislature.

"A state House panel yesterday sent the legislation to the full chamber. Under the bill, the state would have to have reasonable suspicion before requiring a test. Cash assistance benefits could be terminated for people who test positive," Jake Neher reports.

Student performance in Michigan falls behind

"A new report from The Education Trust – Midwest says Michigan improved some aspects of student performance, but most other states improved even more between 2003 to 2011. The report says one reason Michigan fell behind is that the state’s strategy for improvement relied primarily on the expansion of charter and virtual schools," Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer reports.

Ending unlimited coverage for auto accidents

Governor Rick Snyder and GOP lawmakers are unveiling a proposal today to end unlimited lifetime coverage for medical expenses tied to auto accidents.

"The insurance lobby and other critics say Michigan's unique requirement for unlimited medical coverage is too expensive. Hospitals and others say it should stay intact," according to the Associated Press.

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.

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Political winds flame gun and ammo sales in Michigan

President Obama called on Congress and the American public to support new gun control plans yesterday in Minneapolis. While public support for some kinds of gun control measures is up, others continue to stock up fearing coming gun restrictions.

MLive reports gun and ammunition sales are surging as gun control political winds blow:

In December, the FBI ran 59,445 background checks for guns sales in Michigan, the highest monthly total in the state since the database started in 1998. The second highest monthly total was October 2001 when the FBI ran 46,270 background checks.

Michigan leaders want changes to state's no-fault insurance

If you're seriously injured in an automobile accident in Michigan, the current insurance laws in the state set you up with lifetime medical and rehabilitation coverage for your injuries. But state lawmakers want that changed.

This morning, the Detroit News profiles Sam Howell. He's benefiting from the state's current insurance laws. The News points out why Gov. Snyder and other lawmakers think changes to the current system are necessary:

Snyder says the reforms are necessary to rein in no-fault auto insurance rates in Michigan that rank among the highest in the country — particularly in Detroit — and tackle a $2 billion unfunded liability in the state's catastrophic auto accident fund the insurance industry says is unsustainable without severe cost controls.

As Michigan Radio's Lester Graham has reported, many things influence overall insurance rates in the state, and some argue if these benefits are capped, taxpayers will step in to foot the bill:

Opponents also say capping injury benefits will force the most severely injured accident victims to turn to Medicaid and welfare once they reach the insurance cap and exhaust all their family resources. They estimate it will shift $30 million a year to taxpayers.

Snowmobile event in upper Michigan canceled in wake of Caleb Moore's death

Michigan's Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel near Traverse City was planning to hold a snowmobile freestyle event this Friday and Saturday (Feb. 8 and 9), but the group overseeing the event has canceled in the wake of the tragic death of snowmobile freestyler Caleb Moore.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The ISOC, which overseas and promotes snocross racing with the AMSOIL Championship Snocross series, has also withdrawn snowmobile freestyle competition from Wisconsin's Lake Geneva Resort stop March 15-16.

Moore, 25, died in hospital from injuries suffered when his snowmobile landed on top of him after he crashed attempting a back flip on his 500-pound machine in men's snowmobile freestyle Jan. 24 in Aspen, Colo. It was the first death in the 18-year history of the X Games.

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. 

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.
Subterranean / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court formally opens its 2012 session this week.

Its first cases deal with no-fault insurance benefits, Michigan’s open meetings law, and medical marijuana.      

The first arguments of the court’s session will be on the case of a woman who wants her auto no-fault coverage to pay for her treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She was diagnosed after witnessing her son’s death in a motorcycle accident. She was following him in her car when he was struck by another vehicle.

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.

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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.

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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.

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