LANSING, Mich. — Advocates for survivors of catastrophic auto crashes have for months warned that Michigan's no-fault auto reform law would negatively impact access to medical care many of them need to survive.
With the most recent portion of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law going into effect on July 2, insurance companies don't have to reimburse care providers the way they had been.
Any medical service not already covered under our federal Medicare law, which includes in-home caregivers, 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.
According to the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council 696 patients have already lost access to medical care.
At least 41 Michigan-based care companies have had to either close their doors completely or discharge patients receiving benefits via no-fault auto insurance. There have been at least 1,529 health care jobs lost because of the changes, according to the MBIPC.
"There's a thin line between life and death for many of these people,” said Peggy Campbell, founder of the We Can't Wait Facebook page.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg... This is just starting to crumble all around us.”
Campbell has long advocated for her own sister, Dr. Barbara Schoen, who was injured years ago in an auto crash and is now a University-level associate professor.
The changes mean survivors like John Wicke of Lansing, who has long been able to live at home because of his caregivers, now can't find care companies willing and able to take him on as a permanent client.
“They don't want to take him if there's going to be a 45 percent reduction in their pay," said Sonja Hoxie, Wicke's case manager, who is desperately trying to nail down permanent plans moving forward for him.
“Because he requires 24/7 nursing, and 24/7 home health aides... I guess as a business owner, it's a risk.”
They have found a facility in Lansing willing to accept Wicke for the time being, but the future of his care and the care of the other 16,000–18,000 Michiganders receiving benefits from no-fault remains up in the air.
Lawmakers did end up creating a $25,000,000 fund to help buoy care providers who stay open and can prove the cuts are hurting their finances, though applications to actually get some of that money won't open until Aug. 13. Advocates say it simply won't be enough to stop many providers from having to close their doors.
While there were several bills introduced into the state legislature that offered a narrow fix to the fee changes, lawmakers failed to act on any of them prior to going on their summer recess.
The hope now is that they will see the negative impact the changes have caused once they do return to session, and at that time, make a legislative fix that maintains access for all those receiving no-fault auto insurance benefits in Michigan.