GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Changes made to Michigan’s auto no-fault system in 2019 are starting to have an impact on home health care and other care for long-term patients covered under the plan, according to some lawmakers and care givers.
Reforming auto no-fault in Michigan was talked about for decades. Then against the odds, a Democratic governor and Republican Legislature agreed to a plan to do just that in 2019. Now, those involved with long-term care for people covered by the insurance plans say the consequences are having a devastating affect on those who need that care.
On May 30, 2019 at the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Conference, surrounded by lawmakers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the auto no-fault reform and promised to bring choice and lower rates to Michigan drivers.
As a result, the association that represents auto insurance companies says people overall are paying less for coverage. Still, Michigan rates remain some of the highest in the country.
Fast forward to Jan. 12, 2022, people who depend on those policies for long term care, their families and care givers converged on the state capitol in Lansing to urge lawmakers to reinstate funding that was cut by 45% for some services under auto no-fault reform last July.
“People are losing care, people are dying and there’s going to be a mass discharge of clients to our already overrun hospital system,” Branden Monroe, First Light Home Care, predicted the day of the capitol rally.
Some companies that provide home care and other services have already closed or quit servicing clients covered by no-fault.
Margaret Kroese, executive vice president at Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation, says that the reduction of reimbursement that kicked in last July was a concern when the bill was signed.
“This was one of the big areas of concern for providers and some legislators, everyone knew that, that might not work but somehow we don’t have a solution yet,” Kroese said.
When the bill was signed, State Rep. Phil Green, R-Millington, says that they were told it would be just the beginning.
“We were told that, ‘Yes, this is not the end all be all bill, there will be some follow up bills to make some changes’,” Green said.
He says the idea was the auto no-fault reform would be followed up with some fine-tuning, but he says that is now three years out.
Since the fine-tuning hasn’t come, Green has introduced his own bill, HB 5698, that he says would bring the reimbursement for services like home care, in-home skilled nursing, transportation, family attendant care and case management back to the levels prior to the cuts which were implemented last year.
But that does not sit well with the insurance industry.
In a release from the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, a trade association that represent auto insurers and others, executive Erin McDonough was quoted as saying,
“Rep. Green has portrayed this bill as a simple fix that would add no additional costs to the system, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. More than 7 million drivers are seeing savings coming their way, anticipating $400 checks coming this spring, and this bill would force auto insurers and the MCCA to re-evaluate and likely increase their rates.”
Later McDonough told WOOD TV that, “our member companies continue to work with their customers to make sure that people have quality care.”
She says a hotline, 833-ASK-DIFS (833-275-3437), has been set up to handle complaints and has only received about a hundred calls, and most have been resolved. Plus, she pointed to a $25 million fund enacted by the Legislature to help companies with the change in fees.
Those who provide the care are concerned that more and more care givers will be forced to go out of business and the problem, they say, is getting worse the longer the lower reimbursements remain at their current rate.
Vicki Pahl-Trudgeon, a case manager for Ridgemoor Services, says even after finding health care workers for a provider to take care of one her clients, the future is still uncertain.
“They’re losing $4000.00 dollars a week on that case alone. So they can’t sustain that much longer. They’re waiting for this bill to see if they’ll be able to continue,” Pahl-Trudgeon said.
Green’s bill is not the first attempt to “reform the reform” of no-fault. Others have been introduced and gone no where. Even if this bill was to move through the process it could take weeks or months, and some providers say they can’t hold out that long.