No-fault fix advocates meet with lawmakers as breaking point nears
Advocates for people severely injured in auto accidents pled with state lawmakers Wednesday to make changes to Michigan's 2019 no-fault insurance reform.
Severely injured car crash survivors like former Detroit Red Wing Vladimir Konstantinov say they’ll lose at-home care soon if lawmakers don't act.
Theresa Ruedisueli is Arcadia Homecare and Staffing's regional director of operations for Michigan and Wisconsin. She appeared with Konstantinov’s care team at the meeting.
Ruedisueli said there’s support for raising home-care reimbursement rates from both Democrats and Republicans.
“We’re just asking for consideration to fix the fee structure and establish a rate moving forward that is amenable to both parties,” Ruedisueli said.
According to her and other care providers, the 2019 reform allows auto insurers to pay them less than the cost of providing medical treatment.
Ruedisueli said even a Stanley Cup winner like Konstantinov could get a discharge letter in April without legislative action.
“We are carrying approximately $1.6 million in receivables for the care we have already provided to Vlad and the other 30 clients that we have in the State of Michigan just since July 1. That’s what we have not been reimbursed since that July 1 date,” Ruedisueli said.
Bills to address that have stalled for months in the state Legislature. For just as long, advocates have gathered in the halls of the state capitol weekly in hopes of spurring action on one of the several proposed fixes.
State Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) is among the sponsors of a proposal. He apologized to caregivers who say they’re within weeks of having to shut down or cut patients.
“That is what keeps me up at night, and what I would say to them is I’m deeply sorry and we are working as hard as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can, to get this fixed,” Green said.
Outside the meeting, advocates expressed feelings that House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) was among the main holdups of the bipartisan effort.
When asked his thoughts, Green said he supports his party’s leadership.
“We want to get this thing right," Green said. Wentworth "is a very thoughtful, principled person, and I fully expect that he will give me a good picture as to what my next steps are,” Green said early Wednesday afternoon.
House Minority Floor Leader Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) shared Green’s cautious optimism. He said he’s tired of delays on bills to fix the state’s 2019 auto insurance law.
“Everybody knows, and they’re seeing what is happening across the state to their loved ones, to their friends, and even to people they’ve never met before. So, the temperature is going up, and elected officials are starting to pay attention. But, remember, nothing is real until it goes up on the board and is passed,” Rabhi said.
He introduced legislation Wednesday that would repeal the state’s 2019 law altogether.
But late Wednesday afternoon, shortly after House session, MIRS News reported Wentworth said he would not take up major reforms to the no-fault law this year.
In a decision confirmed by a spokesperson for the Republican House speaker, Wentworth said the proposed reforms would all either reproduce the problems the 2019 law sought to solve, or they would risk the $400 refund checks promised to insured drivers.