Insurers and business groups congratulated heads of state last week on the third anniversary of the signing Michigan’s landmark no-fault automobile reformthe latest parade in a continuing battle of lobbyists over the future of the controversial reform.
The letter to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth and GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey touted the recent $400 off to Michigan drivers, a drop in auto insurance costs, an increase in the number of newly insured drivers, and the entry of new insurance companies into the market.
“Bipartisan no-fault auto reforms have cracked down on fraud, stopped overcharging, and ultimately given choice to Michigan consumers,” according to the letter from groups including the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. .
The letter came on the third anniversary of Whitmer signing the Mackinac Island bill into law in 2019 and as the benefits of reform continue to be debated.
Just last month, groups opposed to the law’s fee reductions for medical providers sent a letter to Whitmer asking him to plead more forcefully for the 2019 law changes. A Republican lawmaker surprised his colleagues with an unannounced audience on the changes made to the reform, causing the departure of many. And billboards at interchanges near the Michigan Capitol carried belligerent messages for several weeks about the pros and cons of no-fault reform.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals is set to hear oral argument in a key case challenging whether elements of the 2019 law can be applied retroactively to the roughly 18,000 people who were insured and injured before the law was passed.
Wentworth said he would do not change the law for the remainder of the session, but Whitmer expressed its desire to modify certain elements, including a 45% reduction in what medical providers can charge for services rendered to people injured in a catastrophic accident.
Thursday’s letter pushed back against complaints about the fee reduction, calling it an “essential part of reform” intended to curb “gross overcharging of medical providers”.
“Let’s be clear – people are still getting the medically necessary care they need under the law,” the letter said.
Tom Judd, chairman of the board of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council, said celebrating one-time discounts comes at the expense of access to care for thousands of car crash survivors.
“There’s a balance here where the governor has to look at what the priorities are,” Judd said. “The $400 discount is obviously something the Governor is very proud of. But what about families who lose access to care?
The GOP-led legislature — in response to complaints from medical providers who said they could no longer provide the care they once provided to car crash survivors under the new fee schedule — has set up a $25 million fund which medical providers could turn to if they could demonstrate a “systemic deficit” resulting from the fee reductions. But medical providers said the application process and stubborn insurance companies made it nearly impossible to get help.
Thursday’s letter noted that several applications were still pending for the fund and thanked the leaders for their “continuing commitment” to reform.
“Despite the efforts of some to backtrack on reforms, facts and data compel us to recognize that bipartisan reforms are creating savings for Michigan’s 7.2 million drivers, cracking down on fraud, ending overcharging and giving choice to Michigan consumers,” the letter reads. .