Michigan auto insurance reform accelerating patient discharges and job cuts, survey says

Close to 7,000 people severely injured in car accidents have been discharged from the hospital since Michigan's new auto reform law went into effect last year. 

A survey of Michigan care providers found a 43% decline in capacity to care for patients who suffer catastrophic injuries after being in a car crash. The state's reform to car insurance has also caused a loss of revenue for providers, leading to more than 4,000 health care workers losing their job over the past year. 

The study was commissioned by the Brain Injury Association of Michigan and conducted by the Michigan Public Health Institute. The results are proof that the number of people not receiving care after suffering injuries in car crashes is accelerating, the nonprofit said. It's the second phase of an investigation into the state of health care in Michigan following the reforms.

"In the seven months since that report was released, the Legislature refused to take up a simple fix that would save lives and protect jobs. Since then, the number of patient discharges have more than tripled, and an additional 1,000 jobs have been lost," BIAMI CEO Tom Constand said. "That’s morally reprehensible. This report should be required reading for all of Michigan’s leaders." 

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The auto insurance reforms that passed in 2019 has meant hundreds of dollars in savings for drivers. Anyone with registered cars in Michigan received $400 in refunds from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association earlier this year. 

But those savings have also meant a reduction in the fees that providers rely on for care for those who were critically injured in crashes. 

The Insurance Alliance of Michigan rebuked the study, calling it a "pseudo-survey" that doesn't accurately represent the state's providers that offer long-term care.

"There is data from the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services that shows a small number of individuals have reported issues with their care and current open complaints only total 12," said Erin McDonough, the executive director in a statement. "The bipartisan auto no-fault reforms reined in costs and lowered premiums, the market is adjusting and IAM member companies remain focused on working to ensure medically necessary care is continued."

The first survey done by the MPHI assessed the impacts of the rule change in a survey that was sent last year between Sept. 29 and Oct. 20. It found 3,049 jobs from the sector had been cut. Another 1,548 patients were discharged. Almost every organization in the survey reported services like case management, therapy, and attendant care being impacted.

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The number of job eliminations and patient discharges have grown since then. In the second survey, providers reported a reduction or elimination across residential living support, community-based therapy, outpatient treatment, attendant care, and case management.