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Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey says he needs "data" before "tweaking" auto insurance law that's taking care from thousands

Accident survivors are losing care due to Michigan's new auto insurance law
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
Accident survivors are losing care due to Michigan's new auto insurance law

People injured in catastrophic auto accidents, their families, and their home care agency providers came to the state Capitol on Tuesday, hoping to convince Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to fix the crisis caused by Michigan’s new auto insurance law.

They were disappointed.

Dozens of home care agencies have closed, and hundreds of people have lost care so far, due to the law’s payment cuts to long-term care providers that are below the cost of providing care.

But Shirkey said he is still waiting for “data” before he decides if the law needs to be ”tweaked.”

Meanwhile, the home care agency industry that cares for auto accident survivors is expected to completely collapse within weeks.

U.S. Marine veteran Laszlo Szalay is one of the thousands of people likely to lose his 24/7 home care when his agency closes its doors. He was severely injured in an auto accident in 2012.

"My family's out of state,” said Szalay. “My parents are 84 years old. I don't have anybody else to come take care of me family-wise.”

Michelle Dilaura says her daughter suffered catastrophic injuries when a distracted driver plowed into her as she was riding her bike to work in 2013. Dilaura and her husband are both elderly and can’t step in to replace the 24/7 home care her agency provides.

"She's about to be dropped from that, and we don't know what we're going to do,” said Dilaura.

There are few places in Michigan where people with catastrophic injuries can go when they lose their home care. There are only a handful of beds available in skilled nursing facilities with units designed to care for paralyzed people dependent on ventilators, or people with traumatic brain injuries.

Some accident patients have had to be dropped off at their local hospital because they lost their home care agency and had no one else to care for them. One patient had to wait a month in the hospital before a facility placement could be found for him, more than 100 miles from his former home.

Such hospital admissions of last resort are likely to intensify as the crisis accelerates. Others could become homeless, say health care officials. They also anticipate more people will die.

Two deaths have already been attributed to the crisis. One case manager says a former client asked to be placed in hospice after she lost her home care aides, then her home, had to move into a nursing home. She died three weeks later.

Another catastrophically injured survivor who also suffered from sleep apnea died in her sleep in late September after she lost her overnight care. The agency that used to provide the overnight care said she had no one to make sure her CPAP machine was turned on.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the state legislature to fix the law, and many Democratic state legislators who voted for the law now say they regret it.

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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