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Car crash survivors protest alleged mismanagement of the long term care fund

Diane Mills-Gutierrez and spouse at MCCA protest
Tracy Samilton
Diane Mills-Gutierrez and spouse at MCCA protest

People who survived severe car crashes protested in front of the Livonia office of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association on Wednesday.

They say the MCCA has badly mismanaged the fund that pays for long-term care for survivors. The association is required by state law to maintain enough money in the fund to cover future long-term care costs for the most seriously injured people - but the MCCA says the fund is now more $3.67 billion in the hole.

That's after a reported surplus of roughly $5 billion just last summer.

Association documents show that the fund suffered more than $1.5 billion in losses in the past year in the stock market. The fund was further depleted by the Association's decision to send $400 checks out of the fund balance to each insured driver in Michigan, for a total of $3.08 billion, starting in March.

Protester Diane Mills-Gutierrez was seriously injured in a car crash in 2016. The weather was a little drizzly, so she sat in her wheelchair under the protection of a large black umbrella held by her husband. She held a handwritten sign that read, "MCCA profits over people."

"We are protesting the MCCA and their irresponsible actions in distributing those $400 checks - those supposed refund checks - and now they're saying we have to pay some of that back because - yeah, they didn't do their math quite right," she said. "There really wasn't a surplus."

The MCCA says it will increase the fee it charges for the long-term care fund, to make up for the deficit.

The association is managed by insurance company representatives and asserts that a recent Court of Appeals ruling in a no fault class action case resulted in a recalculation of the fund balance.

The court said it is unconstitutional to apply the 2019 auto no fault law to people injured before the law passed. That means thousands of people are once again entitled to care at "reasonable rates," paid out of the MCCA fund — rather than the deeply discounted rates that are part of the no fault law.

But critics point out that the stock market losses - and the decision to distribute the $3.08 billion to drivers - happened months before the Court of Appeals rendered its decision in the lawsuit, known as the Andary case. And they say the MCCA should have been prepared for the possibility of losing the case.

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear the insurance industry's appeal of Andary in March.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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