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Michigan woman may be first fatality after losing care due to auto insurance cuts

Car accident
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A West Michigan woman could be the first fatality linked to 45% payment cuts imposed on long term care providers for auto accident survivors. The cuts are part of Michigan's new auto insurance law.

The cuts are forcing many long term care providers out of business, including those who took care of the woman who recently died.  

Joyce Mauk owns Wellspring Case Management. She said the 67-year-old woman, who had survived two severe auto accidents, was happy and living at home with 24/7 care when the company providing that care went out of business.

"After losing her care she went into a nursing home and didn't last three weeks," said Mauk.

Mauk expects other survivors of catastrophic auto accidents to die, too.

"They're fragile. They had one-on-one care at home and then they go into a nursing home and now maybe they have one-to-twelve care, or if they're very lucky, one-to-eight care. Do they have care? Sure. Are they dying because they need one-on-one-care?  That's what's happening."

Mauk said she has another client who "coded" after being moved out of her home into a nursing home, but staff and emergency personnel managed to restart her heart. A third client, she said, is in the hospital "fighting for his life," after losing his home care providers.

It's not just the loss of care at home that is threatening survivors' lives. Many transportation companies will no longer take auto accident survivors to and from necessary medical appointments. The  law's 55%  reimbursement rate is below the cost of providing the service. 

"How is someone in a wheelchair going to get into an Uber?" she said.

The Insurance Alliance of Michigan, which represents insurance companies that operate in the state, said survivors who are having trouble replacing their care after their providers leave should contact the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) and make a complaint.

But many survivors and their families say the only response they get from DIFS is a form email saying the complaint has been received. 

Mauk said none of this should be happening. The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association maintains a fund into which Michigan motorists have paid since it was established in 1974. The fund has $23 billion in it.

"Some politicians have erected barriers to the $23 billion fund that is sitting there, waiting to pay people for the care that these people need, and they are dying without being able to access it. That is unconscionable."

Insurance companies won't say what plans they have for the money. 

Meanwhile, the Brain Injury Assocation of Michigan says so far, 689 patients have had their care disrupted by the catastrophic care cutbacks, and nearly 1,500 health care jobs have been lost, while at least 36 companies have been rendered unable to care for patients with auto insurance funding.

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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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