Proposed changes to car insurance could be costly to accident victims

Michigan's sky-high insurance rates are the focus of new legislation in Lansing. 

But the proposed changes to the current no-fault policy could come at a cost to accident victims, some critics say.

Erica Coulston has spent  the last 14 years recovering from a car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. The 36-year-old Southfield resident says the bill passed through the Senate to change Michigan's auto no-fault system, will drastically and negatively impact health care providers and survivors like her.

"This is such a complicated issue," she said. "It is such a complicated system and there's so many lives at stake, jobs at stake. It really makes you question why the need to move so quickly."

Poised for a full vote in the House as early as this week, Bill 248 was passed through the Senate April 16 and the House Insurance Committee April 23. It is said to lower insurance rates $100 per vehicle per year, for two years and create a fraud authority. But critics, point out that it will also cut medical provider reimbursement..

"Leave your hands off that fund," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. "We are paying that charge willingly."

Coulston, joined by auto accident survivors including Patterson, inside Beaumont hospital Monday say that the public has no chance to vote it down.

"Not taking it to a vote of the people anymore because they've been turned down," Patterson said. "They're going to do it legislatively. It's legal but mean-spirited."

But those supporting the bill say the reform has been discussed for years and is important. And they ask to look at the issue as a whole.

"More people will be able to afford insurance and buy insurance and get these benefits," said Mark Swieczkowski of the Verlinde Insurance Company. "Right now the costs are out of control."

Swieczkowski adds that Michigan's unlimited medical benefits has increased fraud and says the people who need this care will still get it.

"This isn't being changed to take benefits away from those who need it," he said. "It's to bring a little bit of certainty as to what the pricing should be."

But those against it say slow down and hope for a compromise.

"I hope the legislature will be smart enough to put this bill on hold," Coulston said. "And give the two sides time to talk and time to work out an agreement."
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