The good and bad of auto insurance changes

Michigan drivers will soon get a $400 refund on their insurance. But those who were badly injured in car accidents could soon lose critical care.

 

Michigan drivers will soon get a refund on their auto insurance payments. As part of the weekly series MichMash, WDET’s Jake Neher and Slate’s Cheyna Roth talk about why those checks are heading to your mailbox, and why not everyone is happy about changes to Michigan’s auto insurance laws.


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In the coming weeks drivers will be getting a $400 refund on their auto insurance. The reason for that is the historic 2019 auto insurance overhaul that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law as an attempt to lower insurance rates.

But while many people might be celebrating the extra cash in their pockets, many critically injured people are worried about losing their care because of the other changes that the law, which went into effect in 2020, made.

Chad Livengood is senior editor for politics and policy at Crain’s Detroit Business. He spoke to Stephen Henderson recently on WDET’s Detroit Today. He said that thousands of Michigan drivers who were seriously hurt in auto accidents could soon lose a lot. That includes their ability to live at home.

“There’s about 18,000 drivers, many who are paralyzed or on ventilators who get their long-term care paid for by this fund,” Livengood said. “This is kind of the cornerstone of Michigan’s unique auto insurance law. In other states, you typically end up on Medicaid and you live in a nursing home.”


Related: Michigan Drivers to Get $400-Per-Vehicle Refund on Auto Insurance Payments


The reason people are likely to lose their coverage now is because the 2019 law capped the payments to home health care companies at 55% of what they were charging the fund that pays for those services in January of 2019. Imagine suddenly having almost half of your income slashed. It would probably make it difficult to maintain your business, home or lifestyle.

Despite protestations since the law went into effect, it doesn’t look like there will be any changes to the law. At least not anytime soon. Michigan Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth said recently there are no plans to change the law. Wentworth, it’s worth noting, was a key backer of the 2019 auto insurance overhaul.

According to The Detroit News, Wentworth said of the various changes he’s considered, “They all either move us back toward the old status quo or put the savings and refund checks for Michigan drivers at risk. At this point, it’s time to move on.”

Politics is, of course, at play in an election year. Although Whitmer has said she’s open to changes and fixes to the law, she’s concentrating her messaging around those $400 checks with the hopes that drivers will remember that boost when they go to the polls in November.


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Author

  • Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.