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Good riddance to No Fault ‘reform’ in 2014, but what will Gov. Snyder say in his State of the State tonight?

None of the more than half-dozen No Fault ‘reform’ plans introduced in the Legislative session passed last year; let’s hope lawmakers get the message

Good riddance to 2014 No Fault reform bills

Michigan does need to reduce the price of auto insurance.

But we need to do it the right way.

Lawmakers blindly passing what the insurance industry’s lobbyists wanted in 2014 was just going to be a boondoggle for the insurance companies to increase profit margins. It was not the way to keep the nation’s best auto insurance protections intact for auto accident victims, while lowering the price of No Fault insurance for consumers.

So, with Gov. Snyder set to give his State of the State tonight, let’s say good riddance to the lopsided so-called No Fault insurance “reform” plans that were proposed during the 2013-14 legislative session. Please, don’t come back!

As an attorney who writes this legal blog about Michigan’s auto laws and No Fault insurance system, there certainly was a lot to write about during the most recent two-year legislative cycle that ended on December 31, 2014.

And nothing was more alarming and more threatening to Michigan’s most seriously injured auto accident victims – the thousands of people who literally depend upon our No Fault insurance system for necessary medical care – than the extreme pro-insurance-industry proposals for No Fault “reform” offered up by lawmakers that we saw during this time.

Luckily, none of these No-Fault reform bills were signed into law, having failed to garner the support of lawmakers in both the Michigan House and Senate.  Let’s hope lawmakers got the message.

But, in our age of Citizens United v. FEC, where insurance companies are now considered “people” and can give unlimited amounts of money to lawmakers to push their own agenda, I am not holding my breath that lawmakers will refrain from reintroducing similarly unsuitable No Fault legislation in the future. There’s no modern case I can think of that more threatens the public good in favor of narrow special interests than the Citizens United case.

And one does not need to be an insurance attorney to know insurance companies are doing this to pursue their own interests, which in this case is further maximizing profits at the expense of the people of Michigan. It’s why I’ve called for giving our state insurance commissioner the same powers that insurance commissioners have in so many other states – the power to regulate the profit margins of insurance companies, and to stop excessive profits that insurance companies make by selling a product (No Fault insurance) that drivers are required by law to purchase.

No Fault Reform in Michigan in 2014: Too one-sided in favor of the insurance industry

Below are the No Fault “reform” proposals from the 2013-14 legislative session.  If  I never see these one-sided pro-insurance industry bills again, it won’t be too soon:

  • Senate Bill 251 (introduced 3/7/2013): SB 251 proposed eliminating the No Fault Law’s guarantee of reasonably necessary and priced lifetime No Fault medical benefits and replacing it with a $50,000 cap. In 2011, when a similar cap on No Fault medical benefits was proposed (coincidentally by the same lawmaker), the Detroit Free Press observed: “To be sure, a $50,000 minimum for medical care might be irresponsible and unrealistic, given today’s medical costs.”
  • Senate Bill 326 (introduced 4/23/2013): SB 326 proposed to create a “Low Cost Automobile Insurance Pilot Program.” However, the proposal included no mention of the savings that consumers could expect to receive. Additionally, the proposal ensured that the poor who qualified for the “Low Cost” option would receive less No Fault protection than consumers who could afford to purchase a non- “Low Cost” policy.
  • House Bill 4612 (introduced 4/23/2013): HB 4612 proposed wide-ranging changes to Michigan’s No Fault Law including, but not limited to: A cap on No Fault medical benefits; a new $21 million annual assessment; price controls on doctors and hospitals; new and unprecedented restrictions on “allowable expenses,” attendant care, rehabilitation and home- and vehicle-modifications; and denial of the right to trial by jury in lawsuits contesting an auto insurance companies denial and/or cut-off of No Fault benefits. To learn more, take a look at my “Auto Insurance Consumers’ Guide To Michigan No Fault Reform & House Bill 4612.”
  • House Bill 4959 and Senate Bill 510 (introduced 9/4/2013 and 9/18/2013, respectively): HB 4959 and SB 510 proposed excluding senior drivers over 65 from No Fault’s medical benefits provisions. To learn more, read my blog post, “Why proposed bill to exempt MI seniors from No Fault insurance is a terrible idea for elderly.”
  • Former Speaker Jase Bolger’s and the House Republicans’ No Fault Plan (made public on 2/25/2014): In a 91-page “draft” bill, entitled “Substitute for House Bill No. 4612,” former Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives proposed extensive, wide-ranging changes to Michigan’s No Fault Law, including, but not limited to: A cap on No Fault medical benefits; a new $21 million annual assessment; price controls on doctors and hospitals; new and unprecedented restrictions on “allowable expenses,” attendant care, rehabilitation and home- and vehicle-modifications; denial of the right to trial by jury in lawsuits contesting an auto insurance companies denial and/or cut-off of No Fault benefits; a “Low Cost Auto Insurance Pilot Program” (similar in substance – in terms of limitations on coverage – to the plan proposed in SB 326); and, a “utilization review” process, which amounts to little more than a “witch hunt” against doctors and hospitals who treat Michigan auto accident victims. To learn more, check out my blog post, “Details in the 91-page No Fault Insurance Reform Plan will truly shock you!”
  • Senate Bill 818 (introduced 2/25/2014): SB 818 proposed changes to Michigan’s No Fault Law including, but not limited to: a new $21 million annual assessment; price controls on doctors and hospitals; and, new and unprecedented restrictions on attendant care benefits. To learn more, read my blog post, “What’s really in Sen. John Pappageorge’s SB 818 on No Fault Law Reform?”
  • House Bill 5854 (introduced 9/23/2014): HB 5854 proposed creating new, legal hurdles for uninsured auto accident victims (such as pedestrians, bicyclists and uninsured vehicle passengers) who seek No Fault benefits through the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan. To learn more, read, “New No Fault ‘hurdles’ proposed under HB 5854.”
  • Senate Bill 1148 (Introduced 11/13/2014): SB 1148 proposed changes to Michigan’s No Fault Law including, but not limited to: A new $21 million annual assessment; price controls on doctors and hospitals; and, new and unprecedented restrictions on attendant care benefits. To learn more, please check out my blog post, “Top 5 things to know about new Senate Bill 1148, the latest Republican-backed No Fault ‘reform’ plan.”
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