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Critics Say Piecemeal Approach To Changing Auto No-Fault Isn’t What State Needs

Cars on Lansing area highway

Some lawmakers in Lansing are trying – once again –  to tackle the state’s car insurance rates. Michigan’s rates are among the highest in the nation.

A sweeping car insurance overhaul couldn’t make it out of the state House last year. Some lawmakers in the Senate said that major reform might not be possible because it wouldn’t pass in the House, but supporters of a bill that cleared the Senate said it would start to chip away at the problem.

“Well it’s certainly a step forward,” said bill sponsor, Senator Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville). “It’s a step forward that our citizens of Michigan desperately need.”

Right now, all drivers have to have unlimited lifetime medical coverage. The legislation would allow senior citizens to opt for reduced coverage for catastrophic crashes. It would also cap medical coverage for pedestrians, and passengers in uninsured vehicles. A bill would also create an insurance fraud division in the state Attorney General’s office.

Senator Jim Ananich (D-Flint) is the Democratic leader in the Senate. He offered an amendment to mandate 10-percent savings for senior drivers who reduced their catastrophic coverage, but that amendment was shot down. Ananich said this isn’t a serious attempt to lower the state’s rates.

“This was done quickly,” he said. “I think some savings is better than nothing, but in this case I think we should take a comprehensive approach.”

Others were frustrated at the attempt to chip away at the state’s car insurance law. Senator Morris Hood (D-Detroit) said the only way real change would happen is if the House and Senate combine efforts.

“Why don’t we start working to try to get it done because this here offers absolutely nothing,” he said.

The Insurance Alliance of Michigan, an organization that represents property and casualty insurance companies calls the legislation a step in the right direction, but executive director Pete Kuhnmuench said that for there to be true cost savings, the Legislature needs to reign in hospital overcharging.

The legislation was voted out of the Senate, with several Republicans joining Democrats to vote against the measure. The bills now await action in the state House.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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