Michigan House lawmakers kill lame duck push for no-fault reform

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
The proposal, backed by Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard of Dewitt and Democratic Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, would end Michigan’s longstanding mandate requiring no-fault auto insurance policies to include unlimited lifetime personal injury protection for catastrophically injured motorists.

Lansing — An effort to resurrect no-fault auto insurance reform died Thursday in the House despite last-minute efforts to find votes for the elusive changes.

The effort to reduce Michigan's nation-leading costs took shape in a revised plan in recent days that would allow drivers to choose their levels of medical coverage, instead of keeping a current requirement for mandatory lifetime benefits.

In a joint statement, Reps. Tom Barrett of Potterville and Joe Bellino of Monroe said they ran out of time while trying to reform the insurance system in the lame-duck session.

“We’ll be right back after the first of the year — full-throttle, working to roll back the out-of-control costs, once and for all,” they said in a statement, noting four decades of climbing costs and increasing public support for reform.

Michigan Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe

Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert had been working to resurrect a 2017 plan by House Republican leadership and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat, in the lame-duck session. Gilbert's team was promoting the plan behind the scenes and has said he may take the issue to the ballot in 2020 if legislators do not act this year or next.

But Duggan was not lobbying for the revised plan in Lansing.

The lame-duck white flag was raised after Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson on Wednesday slammed the last-minute push as an “act of arrogance” by Gilbert.

Patterson was covered by workers compensation after suffering significant injuries in a 2012 auto accident, but the experience has made him an advocate of lifetime medical coverage guaranteed under Michigan’s auto insurance law.

“He’s going to have all the insurance he wants, okay, because he’s a billionaire,” Patterson said about Gilbert. “He’ll never have to be warehoused in a Medicaid facility. So for him to take this opportunity away from the middle class is, I think, an act of arrogance.”

Gilbert said Patterson’s comments were “disappointing” and expressed hope for eventual changes in the law. He also noted that Patterson showed passion for an "unethical and amoral scheme" in which Detroit drivers are charged far more for auto insurance than drivers in Cleveland.

A draft amendment to Senate legislation would have created a tiered system of medical coverage from which auto insurance customers could choose. The legislation also would let seniors covered by Medicare opt out of personal injury protection, limit family-provided attendant care to 84 hours per week and mandate an audit of the Michigan Catastrophic Association.

In a Thursday statement, Gilbert said the lame-duck effort "took another step closer" to ending the current no-fault system.

"Voters are demanding real reform loud and clear," he said. "...We will pick this up Jan. 1st, and if our leaders cannot deliver for the people, we are prepared to take this directly to the ballot.”


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