JACKSON, Mich. — Crash survivors and their loved ones gathered Monday afternoon in front of Orbitform, a business owned by Senator Mike Shirkey, to protest his actions and inaction related to the repercussions caused by the most recent portion of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance reform that went into effect on July 2.
Survivors say their access to medical care has been drastically impacted since the changes have gone into effect.
“Our loved ones have already been in a catastrophic situation, and here we are, this is catastrophic,” Patty Sydow, mother of 30-year-old Anna Sydow who was injured in a crash almost a decade ago, told FOX 17.
"Right now she has lost her transportation, our home care company… they cannot get people to work for them... She’s not able to go to doctor appointments, therapies, occupational, physical, speech therapy, psych services."
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 percent 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.
But for the families fathered in Jackson Monday afternoon, and for several others who have spoken with FOX 17, they are struggling to get insurance companies to cover even basic services.
“It's heartbreaking to know that there are people in positions to help other people and they let them suffer like this. You let your most vulnerable people suffer,” said Chalisse Wilson, who has spent the last 14 years of her life acting as case manager, caregiver, and legal guardian to her brother Clarence Golden.
“In February of 2008, my mom and brother entered the expressway and my mom hit a patch of black ice and their car spun, and unfortunately they were impacted by a semi-truck,” Wilson told FOX 17.
"Unfortunately, even at that time, the insurance company wanted to fight us on their needs, and what they needed. So unfortunately from going back and forth to court, and all the appointments, it was placing a strain on my employer."
Wilson ended up having to leave her job, not long after graduating from college, so she could care for her family members full-time.
“We are now being paid zero... So, we haven’t been paid anything since June, and we are providing way more than 56 hours a week,” she said.
There are roughly 18,000 Michiganders currently receiving medical benefits from their auto no-fault policies.
Since the recent changes took effect though, case managers and advocates say the inconsistencies in reimbursements, and general uncertainty in regards to what medical services are even theoretically covered any longer, are squeezing qualified medical professionals out of our state's care industry.
“You’re going to have families going bankrupt, losing their homes... they can't care for their family members for 24 hours a day, at a 44% cut, paid at only 56 hours a week, and then they can't go out and work because they can't get anyone to come in and take care of their loved ones," explained Maureen Howell, whose son Sam was injured in a crash years ago.
"So, what do they do?"
These families are now left in a precarious situation, with advocates saying their care is in jeopardy now more than ever before.
Chalisse Wilson will never give up on taking care of her family, but the system of support she has cultivated around her brother and mother feels these days like it's crumbling.
Wilson saying, “Now we have a revolving door of people. We never know if they’ll show up... they call in, I have to drive out there and take people's places because they don't show up, and the insurance company isn’t even paying the company, so how long will they be able to survive? Because, of course, Clarence isn’t the only one who needs help.”
FOX 17 has reached out to representatives for Senator Mike Shirkey for comment, but has yet to hear back.