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Republican state Senator Lana Theis faces primary challenge over her support for auto insurance law

Auto accident survivors protest new law cutting them off from care at State Capitol, summer 2021
Tracy Samilton
Auto accident survivors protest the new law cutting them off from care at the State Capitol during the summer of 2021.

State Senator Lana Theis (R-Brighton), the powerful chair of the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee, is facing a primary challenge, primarily over her unyielding support of an auto insurance law that's depriving hundreds of catastrophically injured accident survivors of care.

Theis was a primary drafter of the law, and she is now refusing to move bills to fix it.

Challenger Mike Detmer calls the issue "one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issue affecting Michigan right now."

On July 1, the new law began allowing insurance companies to pay less than the cost of providing care to home care agencies and other providers that took care of auto accident survivors. Some, like the state's biggest auto accident home care agency, Health Partners, closed their doors immediately. Others soon followed, and it's expected that nearly all home care agencies for survivors will leave the business by the end of the year.

Many insurance companies have hastened the dismantling of the industry by not paying any provider bills at all since July 1.

"The way this has played out, it looks to me like the insurance lobby got their way," said Detmer. "She's not taking calls on this, she's not taking those meetings. You know, if you pass a law, and then you find out there's some problems with it, that maybe are unforeseen, maybe they were foreseen, but you chose to ignore it, I would think you would want to fix those problems immediately so nobody's harmed."

Theis did not respond to an interview request for this story. She has also not responded to previous requests for interviews about the crisis created by the law.

Some survivors have had to be dropped off at local emergency rooms because they lost their home care agency and there was no other agency left to step in. Other survivors have had serious medical crises after they lost their former caregivers. Some other survivors have lost their jobs because they need help with activities of daily living in order to remain employed.

As a candidate, Detmer has controversies of his own. He posted a selfie of himself with a group of people that included members of an extremist group, the Proud Boys, last year. He says he was photo-bombed.

He has also questioned the integrity of the November 2020 presidential election despite there being no evidence of any errors that would have changed the outcome.

He told Michigan Radio he supports a "full audit," in order to determine if people who still question the results have been misled by the "Big Lie."

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.