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New law forcing families to drop catastrophically injured loved ones at hospitals

Emergency room hospital

Trinity Health Michigan, which owns seven hospitals across the state, says people catastrophically injured in auto accidents are being dropped off at its emergency departments.

That's because Michigan's new auto insurance law is forcing the survivors' long term care providers out of business. The law cuts insurance company payments to the providers by 45%.

In a statement, the health system said:

"We are concerned about the impact of reimbursement changes on post-acute providers and their ability to care for patients critically injured in auto accidents. Trinity Health Michigan hospitals have experienced increased difficulty in discharging and placing patients with post-acute providers. Our hospitals have also experienced these patients being dropped off at Emergency Departments, which is an inappropriate setting to provide the care they need."

Last week, a quadriplegic man with a traumatic brain injury sustained in an auto accident had to be dropped off at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. His case manager took him there after his caregivers discharged him. She said the man would have been seriously injured or died had he been left without any care.

The crisis is expected to grow over time. The Brain Injury Association of Michigan says at least 20 companies so far have been forced out of business, with 1,600 people losing their jobs. Many more companies say they, too, will have to shut their doors, unless the state legislature makes changes to the new law, soon.

There are bills in committees in the state House and state Senate that would help, but there's been no action taken on any of them.

One bill would postpone the lower fee schedule for a year, in order to give the legislature time to fix the crisis.

Another bill keeps most of the new auto insurance law intact, but eliminated the lower fee schedule from being imposed on people injured before 2019, when the law was passed.

Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services Director Anita Fox says her agency has only received a couple dozen complaints about insurance companies denying care. She says people should file a complaint with her office if they feel they're being treated unfairly by insurance companies.  

When asked about the 20 long-term care companies that have closed, Fox said she knew of at least one company that was expanding.

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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