BY KYLE DAVIDSON, MICHIGAN ADVANCE
LANSING—A sea of people in blue shirts demanding action on Michigan’s care crisis gathered on the Capitol lawn Tuesday in support of car crash survivors and health care workers harmed by 2019 changes to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law.
Last week state Sens. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) and Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Twp.) introduced a bipartisan package of bills to address shortcomings of the 2019 no-fault auto insurance, which has limited reimbursement rates for catastrophic care and introduced a 56-hour cap on attendant care provided by family members.
“The intent behind the bill in 2019 was to establish fair and sustainable cost to care and a pathway to affordability, not to stifle access and limit both the quantity and quality of care,” Cavanagh said during the rally.
“We must live up to our promise to Michigan drivers that they will have access to much needed care if they are ever in an accident,” Cavanagh said.
Cavanagh and Anthony spoke alongside car crash survivors, lawmakers and representatives of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council, the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, the Michigan HomeCare and Hospice Association, Michigan Interfaith Coalition and other home health care and rehabilitation providers and advocates.
During the rally speakers detailed the impacts that the 2019 changes had on both survivors and health care providers.
Amber Marcy, a Saugatuck resident who was left quadriplegic by a car accident at 15 years old, said having a full-time caregiver was a missing link to leading the life she had always wanted.
Marcy was hospitalized at 23 for depression and severe anxiety. At the time she was living alone and only received four hours of attendant care a day. In the hospital, she was told she was eligible for additional attendant care hours through her insurance.
Upon receiving additional care and needed therapy, Marcy said she began living life to the fullest, working and volunteering in her community.
“Life as a quadriplegic is never easy, but I was thriving,” Marcy said.
However the 2019 changes to the auto no-fault law meant Marcy was no longer eligible for physical, occupational or massage therapy, things that were essential to her wellbeing, she said.
While caregivers were always difficult to find, finding care became nearly impossible because insurance companies were longer reimbursing home health care at a sustainable rate, Marcy said.
According to an independent study published by the Michigan Public Health Institute in 2022, the no-fault insurance changes resulted in the discharge of 6,587 patients with insurance-funding for their care. The changes also led to the loss of more than 4,000 health care jobs and the closure of 10 businesses, with 14 additional businesses expected to close.
“In 2019 we sat in these halls of power and were lied to. We were told that rates would be reduced. We were told that there would be no interruption of care. And the politicians who were in charge lied to us and told us that there would be no impact on the men and women and children who line this Capitol lawn today,”Anthony said.
The Michigan Supreme Court upheld a decision in Andary V. USAA Casualty insurance company which determined the 2019 changes would not apply to services and care being provided before the new law took effect.
The ruling opened Marcy’s options for physical therapy, when she had not received therapy in over two years, she said.
“I’m one of the lucky ones, because I was injured before the reform, but I’m here to advocate for all auto accident survivors, especially those injured after 2019,” Marcy said.
“I volunteer as a peer mentor at Mary Free Bed. It has become really difficult as my sole responsibility is to instill hope in newly-injured victims as they face an entirely different life. Without caregivers, therapies and other absolute necessities, they will never thrive because they will spend their entire life simply trying to survive,” Marcy said.
However, Cavanagh and Anthony’s bills could restore a measure of hope for Marcy and her fellow survivors, she said.
“I’m asking all lawmakers to support these bills and end the unnecessary suffering for all of us. We should all be one of the lucky ones,” Marcy said.
Members of the Senate Committee on Finance, which Cavanagh chairs, are slated to consider the bills at their meeting Wednesday.
This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.
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