Special committee formed for no-fault fix

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    As lowering Michigan’s auto insurance rates is a key legislative priority, the state House of Representatives has announced the membership of a special committee to tackle the issue.

    Chaired by state Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare), the nine-member special committee also includes Reps. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) as vice chair and Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) as minority vice chair.

    Jason Wentworth

    Other members are: Reps. Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids Twp.); Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield); Ben Frederick (R-Owosso); Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain); Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon); and Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit).

    “Michigan drivers are demanding more affordable car insurance rates, and it’s well past time we deliver them,” Wentworth said in a statement. “I’m confident this group of legislators — with representation from Detroit all the way to Menominee — will develop a meaningful fix that unquestionably brings real rate relief for all Michiganders. Let’s get to work and get it done.”

    The special committee will have the authority to report legislation directly to the House floor for consideration.

    Michigan’s auto insurance rates are frequently among the highest in the nation, which critics contend is due to the state’s no-fault insurance law. Reform has been discussed in the Legislature for decades and this year has emerged as a top priority for both chambers.

    The state Senate has made auto insurance its top priority. A bipartisan group, led by Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), has expressed support for the concept of lowering rates. But just what mechanisms they might turn to to achieve that remains unclear.

    Sen. Aric Nesbitt talks to reporters about no-fault insurance reform legislation, Jan. 15, 2019 | Nick Manes

    Historically, stakeholder groups like hospitals and insurance companies have bristled at the idea of letting drivers go without high-ticket insurance policies that include things like catastrophic claims coverage. Those concerns show no signs of ceasing this time around.

    “We are pleased that [Senate Majority Leader Mike] Shirkey and other leaders are willing to listen to all sides, because for too long the no-fault discussion in the Legislature has been dominated by the insurance industry, to the detriment of consumers and accident victims,” Tim Hoste, President of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council, said in a statement.

    “Each day, brain injury providers see first-hand how no-fault protections save lives,” Hoste continued. “Eliminating these protections would be devastating to thousands of Michigan families, many of whom would be forced into medical bankruptcy and have no choice but to put their loved ones into state-funded nursing homes ill-equipped to handle their needs. MBIPC looks forward to the Legislature addressing our legitimate ideas and concerns as we work together to lower auto insurance premiums without depriving auto accident survivors of the care they need.”

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

    1 COMMENT

    1. The following shared with the Senate Insurance Committee.

      Stop trying to reform auto insurance and instead fix it.

      Law requires that vehicle operators have insurance provided exclusively by private companies. These organizations cannot provide a product that meets the requirements of Michigan law and their corporate responsibilities at a reasonable price. The insurers, legislature and special interests have twisted themselves into knots trying to “reform” the system and create profitable and cost effective auto insurance for Michiganders. Decades have passed and cost keeps increasing.

      A fix, not reform, is needed. The state of Michigan must become self-insured to provide cost effective services for those citizens needing long term catastrophic care. The care being provided today works, often called the best in the nation. Michigan cares for its citizens.

      Excessive cost is an indicator of a problem, not the problem. Providing medical care for the catastrophically injured is expensive. Cost escalates when those providing the care are allowed by law to charge whatever. Further, private enterprise must generate a profit to remain viable.

      Remove the responsibility for addressing catastrophic care needs from auto insurers and place that burden on the state. Fund via a clearly stated restricted tax on every gallon of gas sold in the state. Post the actual amount of the tax on the pump. History teaches that citizens support taxation when they support the benefit derived from that tax. Michiganders overwhelmingly support care for those catastrophically injured. That’s why no fault was created.

      History also teaches all taxpayers hate a lack of transparency, the “taxation without representation” problem. No fault insurance has been plagued with a lack of real transparency on the part of the legislature, insurers, insurance associations and various special interest groups. And a mandate to purchase a product from a private company is taxation by another name.

      To summarize, Michigan self-insures providing lifetime catastrophic care at the same or improved levels as provided today and auto insurers concentrate on what they do best providing coverage for auto accidents. Create visibility for taxpayers showing them what their tax dollars are being used for.

      And a real benefit to all, reduced overall cost by reining in runaway pricing, lowering administrative costs and eliminating the need for a balance sheet profit.

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