But the law also cut by 45 percent the amount healthcare providers could charge for reimbursements for accident survivor services not covered by Medicare — a change proponents say hindered patients’ access to quality care.
A total of 4,082 healthcare jobs have been eliminated since 2021, while 6,857 accident patients have been laid off from care since the policy went into effect, a study by the Michigan Public Health Institute found.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told Bridge Michigan she expects talks about ways to adjust the law could begin early next year.
“There’s still a lot that needs to be done here to ensure injured people get the support they paid for,” Whitmer told Bridge Michigan. “I’m interested in pursuing that.”
Prior to 2020, Michigan was the only state that required drivers to pay for full personal injury insurance. This became optional when the new law went into effect, and drivers can now choose from different levels of coverage.
The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association — an industry-led nonprofit that collects annual fees from Michigan drivers to cover medical expenses for accident victims — reduced its fees and, at Whitmer’s urging, issued reimbursement checks for $400 per vehicle after 2019 to Michigan drivers out of law.
The association recently raised its new annual ratings per vehicle to a minimum of $48 per vehicle per year after a recent Court of Appeals decision found that patients who began treating auto injuries before the passage of the 2019 law did not subject to change. This judgment is being appealed.
Although supporters of the reform say the ruling has eased some of the pressure, they are still pushing for changes in the law to ensure future victims do not face the same problems.
“What we’re really looking for is a legislative solution that makes all of this moot, and we can just restore continuity of care to accident victims,” said Tom Judd, president of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council.
Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, is a physical therapist who has worked with people who have been catastrophically injured and a longtime advocate of legislation to adjust the fee schedule set out in the 2019 Act.
She said lawmakers felt a sense of urgency to revise the law, though Democrats will likely have a busy agenda if they take control after 40 years without controlling both houses of the legislature.
“Auto no-fault problems are life and death,” Rogers said. “For me, that’s high on the list of things to fix.”
Supporters of the existing law argue the changes were a difficult but necessary compromise to bring down costs.
In a statement to Bridge Michigan, Insurance Alliance of Michigan director Erin McDonough said the 2019 reforms have made insurance more affordable for tens of thousands of drivers and mean Michigan is no longer the most expensive state to buy auto insurance.
Ensuring those injured in auto accidents receive medically necessary care remains a priority for insurers, McDonough said, adding that the 2019 law was Michigan’s first attempt to create checks and balances for medical expenses.
“We are urging a broader look to ensure savings for Michigan consumers remain protected while the Legislature and Governor seek an assessment of the reforms,” she said.
If Whitmer and the new lawmakers are able to come up with a solution that changes the law without hurting the savings, current House Speaker Jason Wentworth said he had no problems – but none of the plans put forward so far would do, he said.
He does not plan to raise the issue during the legislature before the new term begins next year.
“If there’s a sweet spot to fix the perceived problem, I’ve been willing to look at that since day one,” the Clare Republican said. “I’ve never been presented with a plan that actually fixes that and still makes the savings. And if they can tackle the next semester, then great.”
William Bruck, a Republican elected representative from Erie whose home care business had two customers affected by the policy change, said one of his priorities is looking for ways to fix laws that have “good intentions” to themselves but have a negative impact on businesses and residents.
The 2019 law “had some good results as more people now have auto insurance, but it also had some negative effects,” he said.
“We don’t handle a lot of car cases, but we had two clients in particular whose rates were cut almost 60 percent so we couldn’t attend to them,” he said. “We’re not alone in this … I’m definitely willing to check that out.”