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'How did we get here?': Crash survivor forced into hospital after no fault auto law changes

54-year-old Kelley Miller is living in a hospital as of Monday after changes to the state's auto no fault laws made it impossible for her caregivers to continue
KELLEY web.jpg
Posted at 6:35 PM, Jan 17, 2022

MULLIKEN, Mich. — A 54-year-old crash survivor had to leave her home of over a decade on Sunday, after changes to Michigan's no fault auto law made it impossible for her team of in-home caregivers to continue caring for her.

Kelley Miller was paralyzed from the neck down in a 2011 auto crash, now needing a ventilator to breathe. Despite this, she has been able to live a fulfilling life in her home outside of the Lansing area, because of the medical benefits provided to her after the crash via her no fault auto insurance policy.

Shara Curry, and a handful of other nurses and health aides, have taken care of Miller 24/7, every single day of the year— that is, until Sunday morning.

"This is Kelly's home. She shouldn't have to go to a hospital to get care, she has care right here," Curry told FOX 17 early Sunday as they ended their last scheduled shift.

"We just cannot provide care for her any longer, due to the decreased rates that they'll be paying us. We cannot afford to pay our staff."

Shara and her business partner Stacey, a family member of Kelley's, started RN Plus Staffing last year in an attempt to simplify the process of taking care of Kelley under the new insurance law. They were able to negotiate pay rates with Kelley's insurer, Auto Owners Insurance, that lasted until January 15, 2022.

As of January 16, Curry says Auto Owners would only offer substantially reduced pay rates, as is allowed under the most recent portions of Michigan's no fault auto reform bill.

Because Curry and her business would be losing money if they continued to operate under these new fee schedules, they were forced into a situation where they could no longer care for the woman that has become like family to them.

Around 7:05 a.m. Sunday, Curry called 9-1-1 to have an ambulance come pick Miller up.

“She has a good life here with our caregivers, with her husband, with her family. She does not deserve to go to the hospital, or to be placed in a facility,” Curry told FOX 17 as they waited for Miller to be loaded into the ambulance.

"I'm so angry at the system that failed her."

Michigan legislators signed the no-fault auto law reform bill into law back in 2019, aimed at lowering the state's consistently high insurance rates.

Under the new law, which took effect on July 2, 2021, 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.

"My granddaughter's birthday party is today at Skateland, and something I've looked forward to...  but I won’t be there," Miller said Sunday with tears heavy in her eyes.

"I'm going into a hospital... I don't know what's gonna happen with my life.

Instead of celebrating her granddaughter's birthday, she was put onto a stretcher and loaded into the back of an ambulance in the frigid morning cold.

"My husband and I keep talking about like, how did we get here, how did this happen?"

George Sinas, general legal counsel for CPAN, a group focused on preserving Michigan's no fault system, said in response to Miller's situation, "The responsibility for all of this lies squarely at the feet of the Republican leadership of the House and Senate, Governor Whitmer, and the Department of Insurance and Financial Services.

"Make no mistake about it: these politicians could come together and do something about this mess if they really wanted to. Unfortunately, they do not."

Director of CPAN Martha Levandowski told FOX 17 last week that they have confirmed at least 5 crash survivors who have died since the most recent changes went into effect, each struggling after having medical care to some degree cut off.

For Miller's family, her medical team, and all of the people who love her, they hope a legislative fix will be reached in Lansing soon.

There were already a series of bills introduced to "fix" the new medical-fee schedule several months ago before the Legislature went on their summer recess, but all of those languished in committee.

FOX 17 reached out to Auto Owners Monday for comment on the situation, but has yet to hear back.

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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