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Crisis worsens as more auto accident survivors lose care

wrecked car
Robbie Howell
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
If you're hurt in an auto accident, the personal injury protection part of Michigan's mandatory no-fault insurance will pay all of your medical costs. It's lifetime, unlimited coverage.

At least 696 survivors of catastrophic car crashes have lost needed care since July 1, according to a dashboard count from the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council.  

The reason? Car insurance companies are slashing payments to providers of care for the survivors by nearly fifty percent, under Michigan's new auto insurance law. Many of the providers can't survive on half their former revenue. The Council's dashboard says at least 41 companies have either stopped accepting clients with auto insurance as their payment source - or closed their doors altogether.

The Brain Injury Association of Michigan says this is just the beginning. The health care business closures are expected to continue, leaving thousands of the state's most vulnerable citizens without care.

Ken Operhall's daughter survived a catastrophic car accident. She is in a wheelchair and needs 24/7 care.  Until July 1, she was getting it. But her long-term care provider went out of business, and Operhall couldn't find another provider to help her.

Operhall is himself disabled.

"She was dropped off at my house, and they said, 'here, you take care of her.' I'm in a walker, I can't take care of her. Allstate said it's not their problem, they didn't create the law. Then they're telling me, 'take her to the emergency room and just drop her off, they'll have to care for her.' It's not like she's a stump in a ditch, she's a person, and for them to tell me to drop her off at a hospital? It's totally ridiculous."

Allstate says it does not comment on individual customers.

Other patients are in fact being dropped off at local hospitals when their providers leave and no others can be found.

There are currently more than 18,000 people receiving care after severe accidents under Michigan's old auto insurance law. The Michigan Catastrophic Care Association fund set up to care for them has reached an all-time high of  $23 billion dollars. That's enough to keep the remaining long term care providers in business for decades.   

But instead of tapping that fund to help survivors, Republicans in the state legislature passed a taxpayer-funded bill for $25 million in grants, for long term care providers who can prove they are operating at a "systemic deficit."  

But the Brain Injury Association of Michigan says the new law shortchanges the state's providers by about $350 million annually, and a one-time fund of $25 million will help only a handful of companies  stay afloat temporarily.

Insurance companies, which control the $23 billion fund, will not reveal what plans they have for the money.

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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