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Quadriplegic car accident survivor Erica Nader Coulston on why Michigan No Fault Insurance is vital

March 25, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Coulston, No Fault advocate and founder of Walk the Line to Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, shares her story

Erica Nader Coulston on Michigan No Fault reform

Today we’re featuring a guest post from Erica Nader Coulston. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because Erica has become an important voice in the current No Fault debate now raging in Michigan.  Erica is a car accident spinal cord injury survivor and founder of Walk The Line To Spinal Cord Injury Recovery therapy center in Southfield.

She is the recent winner of the Oakland County Elite 40 under 40 Award for young entrepreneurs who are benefiting the community.

With the calls for No Fault insurance “reform” by many Republican politicians and the hard push from Michigan’s insurance industry, Erica has been all over the news.  She is an advocate for keeping our current No Fault insurance system intact, and its guarantee of lifetime necessary medical care for the catastrophically injured.

For more information, click here to read a comprehensive analysis of Michigan No Fault reform and the latest developments.

Here’s what Erica has to say about our Michigan No Fault system and her own experience:

Erica Nader Coulston physical therapy

At the age of 23 I had just graduated from college and was working in my first job with my whole life ahead of me.  The world was my oyster, which was probably why I didn’t think twice about getting into the car that night. How could I have known that the driver, my brother, would lose control of the car, that within the blink of an eye my life as I knew it would change forever. At 23, or at any age, too often we just don’t think it can happen to us. But it did happen to me and that night I was paralyzed from the chest down with a C6/7 spinal cord injury.

When the ambulance brought me to Beaumont, my Mom gave them my BCBS insurance card- she didn’t know anything about Michigan’s Auto No Fault laws or the benefits that it would provide her newly paralyzed daughter. Some days later, a Case Manager from my brother’s auto insurance carrier called to inform us of my lifetime medical coverage afforded to me through the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA).

Paralysis has left me with limited use of my fingers, hands, arms and core muscles with no functional use of my legs. I cannot empty my bladder or bowels on my own. I cannot shower or dress myself completely. I cannot cut my food or fully prepare a meal. I have no sensation from the mid-chest down except for the excruciating burning of my chronic nerve pain.

It has been eleven and a half years since my injury- I am healthy, happy and live at home with my family. Because of my lifetime medical benefits I have ongoing physical and occupational therapy allowing me to regain more independence and function than ever expected. I have 24/7 in home care provided for medical and safety reasons.

My wheelchairs and medical equipment are repaired or replaced in a timely manner. I receive enough medical supplies that I don’t have to reuse things like catheters.  Do you know what your health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid provides? Medicare provides ZERO in home attendant care. Medicaid restricts catheter amounts often forcing people to reuse catheters leading to infections. Most private health insurance policies limit therapy benefits to at most 60 visits per year, combined.

3 things the auto insurance companies are not telling you

The auto insurance companies are lobbying our legislators to dismantle the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) – the reinsurer that collects our fee annually. Did you know that the MCCA currently has over $14 BILLION and if no new money was ever collected would not go bankrupt for 17 years?

So what else aren’t they telling you?

  1. The cost of care does not go away by getting rid of the lifetime medical benefits provided through the MCCA and the fee paid per car. The catastrophically injured will still require the same care.
  2. By doing away with or limiting the lifetime medical coverage currently covered by the $175 per car fee, insurance companies will mitigate their financial obligation and shift the burden to tax payers.
  3. Neither insurance companies nor their lobbyists have confirmed any savings with certainty only that savings are “likely”. They want us to give up an incredibly valuable benefit with no promise of real savings.

Debunking myths from the auto insurance industry

How about some truth to common myths about Michigan’s Auto no Fault system brought to you by insurance companies.

  • The MCCA is unsustainable. The Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault (CPAN) and the Brain injury association of Michigan (BIAMI) have filed and won a lawsuit to force the MCCA to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and release ALL financial and actuarial information. If the MCCA is truly unsustainable, then we all have a stake in understanding where the problems are and we must work together to find real solutions. This process relies on full disclosure from the MCCA on not only income and liabilities but also investments and assumptions used to create the actuarial equations that determine future liabilities.
  • Michigan’s auto insurance is one of the highest in the nation and the insurance commissioner should look out for the people.  Instead of trying to do away with the MCCA and lifetime medical benefits, the Insurance Commissioner should be looking out FOR the people. Did you know:

a. The Insurance Commissioner has no power to regulate rates.
b. Michigan has NO consumer protection laws.
c. Michigan has NO Bad Faith laws.
d. Michigan does not regulate how much profit insurance companies can make.
e. Michigan has NO punitive damages.

  •  The current system is filled with fraud. I am not contesting that there is room to crack down on fraud; however, it is equally fraudulent for insurance companies to deny legitimate benefits.
  • The average claim in Michigan is higher than any other state at $44,000. The figure used includes Michigan’s uncapped amount vs. the much lower cap amounts of other states so naturally Michigan’s number will be higher. Using the median vs. the average amount would be a more accurate representation.
  • Auto insurance companies are charged more for the same service. By law, providers must charge ALL insurance companies (including Medicare, BCBS, Workman’s Comp) the same amount for services that are standardized through CPT billing codes.
  • The cost of doing business with auto insurance companies is higher. They do not pre-approve services, they refuse to convert to an electronic billing system; often providers are forced into costly litigation to pursue reimbursement. Nothing precludes auto insurance companies from negotiating individually with providers. In fact, they often use third party administrators like Corvel to achieve reduced fees.

Given the thousands of lives and jobs dependent on the lifetime medical care afforded through Michigan’s Auto No Fault laws and the MCCA, it seems reckless and irresponsible for auto insurance companies to ask our legislators to reduce or eliminate this benefit without first knowing all of the facts and being given the opportunity to have all questions asked and answered.

While mine is a story of success as a direct result of these lifetime medical benefits, it is not the norm. For every story like mine, there are hundreds that aren’t as fortunate.

Michigan’s Auto No Fault laws provide those of us catastrophically injured in a car accident the best opportunity for a full and healthy life. A life that we would all want for our loved ones or ourselves should such a tragedy take place.

Think about what auto accident rights you’re giving up

The next time you think about what you could do with that $175 MCCA fee, think instead about what you’re giving up and consider this:

  • Your credit score, zip code and any other personal information they can get their hands on will be considered when you are given rates.
  • The most expensive portion of your auto insurance bill lies within the collision/comprehensive part of your bill.  Reducing the coverage on the medical portion will do NOTHING to lower this cost.
  • Insurance companies value repairing vehicles more than our lives.  It’s where they can make the MOST money.
  • Why would any Legislator be trying so hard to give the Insurance Companies what they want?  Money, money, money.

For more information, click here to read a comprehensive analysis of Michigan No Fault reform and the latest developments.

Related information:

Mitch Albom, Erica Nader Coulston on why Michigan No Fault is so important

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