Auto insurance change to leave brain, spinal cord patients without care, say advocates

A virtual protest filled the email inboxes of the governor, lawmakers and media from the families of vulnerable patients, the rehab centers, and skilled nursing care facilities that will likely go out of business with the changes to state auto insurance that will go into effect July 1st.

"It's literally a matter of quality of life and ultimately, a matter of life and death," said Tom Constand, Brain Injury Association of Michigan. "These people will be discharged from hospitals with no place to go. They won't be able to go to rehab providers who can no longer afford and sustain their businesses."

That's because facilities that offer acute care and rehabilitation for brain and spinal injuries are facing an insurance reimbursement cut of 45 percent.

Knowing what's at stake, Constand wrote a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer asking her to push the House and Senate to hold hearings on two bills that would adjust the fee schedule and allow acute care - already paid for by car accident survivors - to continue.

"The governor responded and said it was stuck in the legislature and she can't address anything until it gets to her desk," he said.

"The consensus was almost right from the start that it wouldn't work," said State Rep. Douglas Wozniak (R).

Wozniak introduced a bill that is identical to the Senate's that would adjust the fee schedule - while protecting the auto insurance reform that was signed into law in 2019.  

"I think something will happen, but you know, I think it will be better for us in the long run but we've got six weeks left to talk about it," he said.

And that has those who held the virtual protest on Tuesday very worried. Both the Senate Majority Leader Jason Wentworth and House Speaker Mike Shirkey have said they wanted to give it a year to see how things go.

But by then we're told for the survivors, their families, and the care facilities, it will be too late.

"I hope we don't, I don't think the people in state of Michigan can wait that long," Wozniak said.

"Any number is unacceptable to us when the decision becomes we can no longer provide the care from the state we have provided for 40 years through no fault insurance decision," said Constand.

FOX 2 is told insurance lobbyists may be playing a role in preventing hearings on the bipartisan bills.

There is the question about the $23 billion still in the catastrophic care fund - money already paid to provide accute care. no one knows what is going to happen with that.