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Open letter to Rep. Lana Theis about her Crain’s Detroit Guest Blog

February 1, 2018 by Steven M. Gursten

In her Crain’s Detroit Business article, Lana Theis (R-Brighton) reveals why she’s too biased to chair the House Insurance Committee

Rep. Lana Theis (R-Brighton): Here's why she should resign as Chair of the House Insurance Committee

Dear Rep. Theis (R-Brighton),

Let me tell you why your failed plan to dismantle No Fault was defeated 63-45 on November 2, 2017.

It was bad. Really bad. You said lots of things that proved to be wildly false. You promised great savings for people that turned out to be ridiculously paltry – and then you didn’t even include any assurances or guarantees these paltry savings would last. In exchange for these paltry savings, you would have essentially created a $25,000 cap for No Fault for most Michigan drivers (we both know the remaining $225,000 was limited to acute emergency room care and was essentially a bribe to try to get the big hospitals to go along with your terrible plan).

You wanted Michigan drivers to give up all necessary lifetime medical care for a $25,000 cap for no significant savings on auto insurance.

You created a really bad plan. It deserved to fail as miserably as it did.

In the end, after all of the hearings you ordered wielding (abusing?) your gate-keeping power as Chair of the House Insurance Committee, none of what you said even got to the full House for a vote.

Lana Theis learns nothing from her failed attempt to dismantle Michigan auto No Fault

I hoped you would have learned some things from your experience with HB 5013.  Instead, as I read your Crain’s Detroit Business guest blog, it became clear just how selective you were in the facts you chose to discuss and what you chose to ignore.

Indeed, my two main takeaways as an auto No Fault attorney and insurance lawyer are:

  • The insurance industry lobbyists who likely wrote the entirety of HB 5013 are not being honest with you about what is driving up insurance prices for consumers and, like pigs to the trough, they thought they could ram through a special interest-laden bill that gave the insurance industry nearly everything it wanted by making a lot of big campaign donations to you (which I discuss below).
  • Your comments to Crain’s Detroit have revealed you to be a partisan obstructionist who has already made up her mind to deny even a single Committee hearing (even though your bill received a record-making three hearings in one month) to the good faith, well-intentioned bills that comprise the bipartisan package known as “Fair and Affordable No-Fault reform.” (Personally, I think one of the reasons you dislike the proposal so much is because of its name, “Fair and Affordable No-Fault reform”: You know the same can’t be said about your failed insurance industry boondoggle of a bill.)

You do concede in your Crain’s article that your HB 5013 “was not a perfect bill.”

But, come on. Let’s be realistic. It was horrible.

You knew how bad and reckless and dangerous it was and, ultimately, despite lots of misleading comments made by you and others in support of the bill, so did everyone else.

That’s why, in contrast to the 44 House lawmakers (Republicans and Democrats) who have signed on to support the Fair and Affordable No-Fault insurance proposals, you were the lone sponsor on your HB 5013. Congratulations on that.

It’s also why the House vote should be fairly viewed as a resounding rejection of your plan for dismantling auto No Fault in Michigan, taking away vital PIP benefits and protections from car accident victims and failing to provide any meaningful, long-term or guaranteed savings for consumers.

It’s time for new thinking. It would also be nice to have new people with new ideas. That’s why I think you should resign your post as Chair of the House Insurance Committee.

What Rep. Lana Theis doesn’t understand about the purpose of No Fault

The revisionist No Fault history that Rep. Theis parrots (from having heard it so often by insurance industry lobbyists) is wrong.

No Fault came about because car accident victims in Michigan were not getting the urgent medical care and treatment they needed under the tort-based system that existed before 1973.

In fact, former Michigan Insurance Commissioner Thomas C. Jones described the “wrongs” of the tort system that No Fault sought to fix as follows:

Michigan’s pre-1973 tort system was “incomplete, inequitable, inefficient and slow”; it did “a poor job of providing for seriously injured auto accident victims”; it had an “inequitable payment structure” because a “high percentage of persons injured in automobile accidents received no reparations under the tort system”; it “systematically under-compensated the most seriously injured” victims; and “lengthy delays existed under the tort system in compensating those injured in automobile accidents — often in cases where the need for prompt compensation was strongest.”

Significantly, even the Insurance Institute of Michigan has praised No Fault for what it has accomplished:

  • “The no-fault concept has worked well. Accident victims are promptly compensated for their losses. They receive unlimited medical benefits and substantial wage loss benefits on a no-fault basis. Severely injured people no longer have to bear devastating financial burdens while waiting for lawsuits to be settled.” (Insurance Institute of Michigan, “No-Fault: An overview of Michigan’s unique auto insurance law,” brochure (no longer accessible on the IIM’s web site))
  • “Under Michigan’s no-fault system severely injured people receive immediate benefits instead of the previous system of having to wait for lawsuits with at-fault parties to be settled.” (Insurance Institute of Michigan web site, Consumers, “Auto Insurance Facts”)

What doesn’t Rep. Lana Theis understand about the significance of No Fault lawsuits?

To the extent that “attorneys and expensive litigation” are and have been a part of Michigan’s No Fault system, the blame lies with one group and one group only: The insurance companies.

Lawyers don’t file No Fault lawsuits in a vacuum.  They file lawsuits when No Fault benefits are denied.  They file when insurance companies play games with people’s lives, delaying benefits for months without explanation, and when they use notorious cut-off doctors to terminate people’s No Fault medical and wage loss.

No Fault attorneys file lawsuits when and only when an auto insurance company has failed to provide an auto accident victim with the vital benefits and protections guaranteed to him or her under the Michigan No Fault Law.

In other words, if insurers just followed the law and kept their contractual promises with their own customers – rather than using Colossus software, overly-aggressive and overreaching claims adjusters and hired-gun, insurance company IME doctors to cut people off, people wouldn’t need car accident lawyers like me to help them.

I’d be put out of a job. If that’s not incentive for you to make insurance companies do the right thing, then I don’t know what is.  But then they wouldn’t be paying you those big campaign contributions so they could rack up even higher profit margins in this state, would they?

How special were the insurance interests that backed Rep. Lana Theis’s No Fault plan?

With more hypocrisy than one can imagine from even a politician, Rep. Theis faults the Fair and Affordable No-Fault Reform plan with being “written and promoted by a special interest group …”

Apparently, she forgot the special interest group that was so integral to her House Bill 5013: The auto insurance industry.

Without it, there would have been no one to actually write the bill she introduced as her own.

Nor would there have been $250,000 in contributions to Theis and her fellow supporters of HB 5013, including, but not limited to House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-Dewitt).

Why is Rep. Lana Theis too biased to be Chair of the House Insurance Committee?

It’s clear from her comments in her Crain’s article that she has made up her mind about the Fair and Affordable No Fault plan.  I have no doubt that’s because the lobbyists and special interests from the insurance industry have told her what she should do.

It’s equally clear that, as long as she sits as chair of the House Insurance Committee, those bills don’t stand a chance of getting a full hearing before the Committee – unlike the three hearings that Theis’s failed bill was afforded.

In her own words, here’s why Rep. Theis is too biased to continue as Committee chair:

  • “As chair of the House Committee on Insurance, I adamantly oppose this package of bills [i.e., the Fair and Affordable No-Fault plan]”
  • The Fair and Affordable car insurance plan was “written and promoted by … groups which profit directly from Michigan’s current system” and that have “intentionally misrepresented information about proposed auto no-fault reform legislation to scare drivers and accident victims into opposing changes to our no-fault system, in order to protect their profits.”
  • The Fair and Affordable car insurance plan is “sleight of hand” and “disingenuous.”

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