Supporters of car crash survivors launch series of summer protests

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A handful of summer protests over the impact of Michigan’s 2019 auto insurance changes kicked off in Lansing on Tuesday.

The law capped what care providers could charge for reimbursement at 55% of their previous rate and limited the number of billable hours for home care.

Crash survivor David St. Amant said it was harder for him to find the care he needed.

“[Therapists] and other such professionals are closing their doors or having to reduce their hours so they can take another job,” St. Amant said.

Since the changes went into effect just over a year ago, a small group of protesters have gathered at the state Capitol frequently for several weeks. On Tuesday afternoon, they were in front of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office.

Peggy Campbell leads the Facebook advocacy group which is coordinating the efforts.

“We always thought the governor signed the bill and she really did,” Campbell said Tuesday.

Whitmer hailed the 2019 no-fault law as a bipartisan victory. Earlier this year, she celebrated $400 reimbursement checks issued using money described as a surplus from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association fund.

The governor has also publicly stated that she will work with lawmakers to resolve issues related to the 2019 Auto Insurance Act.

“It’s important that we explore all ideas to protect people’s care while maintaining the savings the law has provided Michigan drivers,” spokesman Bobby Leddy said in a written statement.

But evidence that the law has delivered savings is scant, and legislative leadership has yet to show a willingness to support changing the law.

Meanwhile, the Whitmer administration is pointing the finger at a directive it gave to the state Department of Insurance and Financial Services to hold auto insurers accountable.

“We are closely monitoring the Legislative Assembly’s engagement on this issue while ensuring auto insurers take responsibility for helping survivors obtain appropriate care,” a department spokesperson said.

The agency reiterated that it is available to receive complaints by phone, email or online.

But Campbell, who estimated thousands of people lost needed care as a result of the new law, said the department has served as more of a speed bump for survivors than an ally.

“The forms you fill out are so complicated and convoluted that many people, especially those with spinal cord or brain injuries, just can’t fill them out,” Campbell said.

Military veteran and crash survivor Laszlo Szalay shares that sentiment. He said he called 64 health care providers in Livingston, Oakland, Macomb and Jackson counties before he was turned away because he was a survivor of a car accident. Now he relies on a network of friends to help him.

“These people have jobs. They don’t have time to watch me all the time. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Szalay said. “I was a 46-year-old guy working full-time, a professor, and I was working for the CIA at the time. I got hurt, I lost everything. Now I’m just worried about what tomorrow will bring. bring me.”

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