State accelerates education effort on auto insurance changes
Lansing — The state Department of Insurance and Financial Services is preparing for changes in less than five months of most aspects of Michigan’s no-fault auto reform by investing in more outreach to customers, car insurance companies and agents.
The department has created a website with information on the changes, insurance shopping tips and new coverage options in an effort to prepare individuals for July 1, when they’ll have to decide what level of personal injury protection and bodily injury coverage they want.
Insurance companies will be required to send customers forms to explain new options they have for reduced coverage after July 1 at the time of renewal or if approached earlier by a customer. All auto insurance companies will have to file new rates for approval by the department if they hope to sell insurance in Michigan after July 1.
"I have every expectation that we will see significant savings for our residents, said DIFS Director Anita Fox. "How that will play out across each individual insurer is always so much more difficult to say."
Residents with questions or complaints about the new reforms should call (833) ASK-DIFS, visit michigan.gov/autoinsurance or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michigan traditionally has had among the nation's highest auto insurance rates due mainly to the state's unique requirement that motorists purchase auto insurance policies that guarantee uncapped lifetime medical benefits in the event of catastrophic crash injuries.
The new changes, which had bipartisan support when signed into law in late May, seek to reduce costs by allowing insurers to sell reduced coverage policies requiring them to sustain premium reductions for eight years.
By July, the new law will give motorists the option to buy less-expensive policies with less personal injury protection.
The law starting in July 2021 also creates caps limiting the amount medical providers can charge for treating auto crash victims and limits the number of hours insurers are required to pay family members who take care of loved ones.
There’s a 90-day window the department has to review and approve proposed rates from insurance companies, a departure from the former "file and use" system that let insurance companies begin selling to customers as soon as they filed their rate schedules.
The department has hired actuaries from six independent companies to help review rate filings from insurance companies, which are required to get their new rates approved by the department to continue selling insurance after July 1. The rate filings in the past were reviewed by actuaries within the insurance companies themselves.
The measures are a means to ensure companies comply with rate reductions and "that the charges for premiums and the rates that they put in are going to set the right relationship to risks and costs and expenses," Fox said.
"It has to be clear, transparent and fair to the consumer," she said, noting that more than 10 industry bulletins have been issued to companies to inform of them of the new requirements.
Several companies have already filed rate proposals to the department, including at least one that has not sold auto insurance in Michigan before. There have been no insurance rate proposals approved so far.
A fraud investigation unit enshrined in the law includes 12 full-time employees and operates in concert with Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office.