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Murrow Awards: Continuing Coverage

Michigan’s new auto insurance law: policy holders save money at expense of those needing long term care
By Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio | Aired: Jun 7 - Nov 11, 2021

Until last year, drivers in Michigan paid the highest auto insurance rates of any state in the country, and Detroit the highest insurance rates of any city. While there were several reasons for that, lawmakers and lobbyists for the insurance companies pointed to Michigan’s lifetime medical coverage for victims of catastrophic accidents.

At a ceremony on Mackinac Island in May, Democrats and Republicans alike joined Governor Whitmer as she signed a law that brought sweeping changes to Michigan’s auto insurance laws. The new law would let drivers choose less coverage, which might lower their premiums. Advocates for those living with catastrophic injuries from auto accidents warned the new law could take away their care, but the Governor and lawmakers assured everyone they would fix any problems that arose later.

That did not happen.

Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton produced a feature in early June, warning people that many would lose healthcare coverage starting in July if changes weren’t made. As predicted, thousands of catastrophically injured Michiganders began to have their healthcare claims denied and the providers who cared for them started going out of business. The businesses could no longer afford to stay open with the cuts to their reimbursements.

Samilton was one of only two reporters in the state covering this issue regularly. Her coverage not only predicted this outcome, but she stayed with the heartbreaking story in a series of features that introduced audiences to people losing care, folks having to leave their homes to go to nursing homes and hospitals, health provider businesses closing, and lawmakers turning a blind eye as they celebrated $400 refunds to Michigan drivers.

We believe as a result of Tracy keeping this issue in the news, in January of 2022, Rep. Phil Green, (R-Millington) introduced legislation he hopes will fix the controversial auto no-fault insurance reform. The bill has been applauded by medical providers serving crash victims but criticized by insurance plans paying the bills for the change. It faces an uphill battle as powerful insurance companies oppose it, and even if passed, it will likely be too late for many crash survivors hurt by this “reform.”