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Why proposed bill to exempt MI seniors from No Fault insurance is a terrible idea for elderly

September 9, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

HB 4959 would take essential protections away from injured senior drivers and drive them into financial ruin

Bill to exempt MI seniors from No Fault

House Bill 4959 was introduced last week  to exempt  senior drivers over the age of 65 from the Michigan No Fault law. It sounds like a good idea. At first.

But as an attorney who practices in this area of No Fault insurance and automobile accident litigation, these bills are dangerous and reckless.

Excluding seniors from No Fault insurance would actually work to take away vital legal protections  that senior citizens currently have, and it will increase Michigan taxpayers’ Medicare burdens. 

But the main reason I oppose the bills to exclude senior drivers by Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) and Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) is because they are irresponsible.  Seniors who are seriously hurt in automobile accidents will lose everything. Any senior who is seriously injured in an auto accident will quite literally be driven into financial ruin if this proposed legislation becomes law.

Here are the  reasons why “exempting” and excluding senior drivers over 65 from No Fault’s medical benefits provisions is a horrible idea that must be rejected:

  1. Senior drivers will not be entitled to No Fault medical benefits for life. Senior drivers over 65 who are seriously injured in a Michigan car accident will no longer be entitled to reasonably necessary and very reasonably priced lifetime No Fault medical benefits.
  2. Instead, seniors will turn to Medicare, which covers medical bills for people over 65.  But Medicare does not cover many of the medical benefits needed by an injured senior auto accident victim, such as: skilled nursing facility care; in-home nursing care; attendant care; home health services; long-term custodial care; home- and vehicle-modifications; and prescriptions.
  3. Senior drivers’ will lose the right to make recoveries for pain and suffering damages against an at-fault driver.  Seniors will literally lose the right to sue for their injuries because any senior who is seriously injured will have a Medicare lien, also known by lawyers as a “super-lien” on any third-party tort (pain and suffering) recovery. In other words, Medicare gets every penny it spends back from these seniors from any recovery they make for their injuries from an at-fault driver.  The real effect is that the elderly lose their right to sue. This would not be the case if their medical benefits are covered by No Fault insurance, as they currently are. Under HB 4959’s proposed carve out of No Fault insurance for seniors, Medicare will now have full legal subrogation rights to any money and compensation  injured senior auto accident victims will receive.
  4. Discrimination against senior drivers. Let me be more clear: These proposed bills discriminate terribly against seniors by allowing seniors to trade away all of their legal rights that they currently have in Michigan.  They lose their current ability to have automobile accident-related medical bills paid for by No Fault in return for the obligation to pay back every penny to Medicare for medical services that Medicare does actually cover.  They lose their constitutional right to sue for their injuries and pain and suffering if they are injured by another. They are trading away nearly everything, in exchange for dropping No Fault insurance.
  5. HB 4959 bill will raise our taxes. Taxpayers’ Medicare burden will increase drastically as a result of shifting the medical benefits cost for injured senior auto accident victims from the No Fault system (which is funded by Michigan auto insurance companies through the premiums paid by drivers) to the Medicare system (which is funded by taxpayers).  Interesting that these two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Farrington and Sen. Jones, are proposing very discriminatory legislation that penalizes seniors terribly, and that raise our taxes too.

On September 4, 2013, Rep. Farrington introduced House Bill 4959 which would exempt and exclude senior drivers over 65 from the No Fault medical benefits portion of Michigan’s No Fault Law:

“An owner or registrant of a motor vehicle required to be registered in this state who is an individual 65 years of age or older is not required to maintain security for benefits under personal protection insurance.”

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“A person is not entitled to be paid personal protection insurance benefits for accidental bodily injury if at the time of the accident … [t]he person was 65 years of age or older and was the owner or registrant of a motor vehicle with respect to which the security for the payment of personal protection insurance benefits to the person was not in effect.”

Related information:

Why Michigan’s elderly driving law does not protect the public or the elderly

How Michigan drivers 60 and over can save money on auto insurance

Elderly driving and car accidents: Focusing on prevention

 – Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by Elliott Brown

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