Michigan House speaker says no plans to change auto no-fault reform: 'Time to move on'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Michigan House Speaker Jason Wentworth on Wednesday said there are no longer plans to alter the 2019 auto no-fault insurance law that has drawn criticism for cuts in payouts to health care providers.

Under the law, the fees medical providers could charge insurance companies for auto crash survivors were trimmed on July 1 to 55% of the charges in 2019 or 200% of the 2019 Medicare rate for Medicare-reimbursable services. 

Medical providers and catastrophic crash survivors have sought changes since the law started to take effect in 2020, arguing the lower reimbursement rate makes it nearly impossible to continue providing services.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs the no-fault auto insurance reform legislation in 2019.

In a statement Wednesday to The Detroit News, Wentworth said he "spent an entire year looking at every idea that was proposed and working with our committee on options."

The Farwell Republican added: "They all either move us back toward the old status quo or put the savings and refund checks for Michigan drivers at risk. At this point, it's time to move on."

Wentworth's comment comes more than a week after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state officials said Michigan drivers would start receiving $400 auto insurance refund checks this week through savings brought from the insurance reform.  

The Democratic governor announced last week that refunds would be issued as the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association planned to complete the transfer of $3 billion in surplus funds to state auto insurers. In November, she and state lawmakers called on the MCCA to refund state drivers. 

Insurers must send out the refunds by May 9. 

Critics of the reform, including the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, have urged state lawmakers to change the no-fault insurance reform. The association has cited increasing stresses on hospitals as a result of the new law. 

A recent survey of brain injury service providers indicated about 1,500 crash victims have been discharged by their health providers and 3,000 jobs eliminated since the fee cut took effect. 

Groups such as the Insurance Alliance of Michigan argue the insurance reform was working and controlling overcharges. The group said in January that Michigan drivers had saved $4 billion on auto insurance premiums since the law took effect.

On Wednesday, reacting to Wentworth's position, the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council likened his stance "to walking away from the scene of an accident with smoke smoldering and crash victims writhing in need of help."

"Today, the Speaker ended the chance for a public dialogue where facts, data, and real-life situations would be discussed in a public forum,"  said Tom Judd, the council's president, in a statement. "Sadly, the Speaker caved to the auto insurance industry lobby, who worked hard to prevent any public hearing on this matter, and declined to give legislators the opportunity to have their voices heard in an up-or-down vote."