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'Fix the fix': Care providers and crash victims protest no-fault insurance changes

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Shelby Township — Kathy McEvilly, 62, said she managed to live in her own apartment for more than 45 years after a car accident when she was 15 left her in a wheelchair. In September, she was given two and a half days to pack her things into a storage unit and move to an assisted living facility in Farmington Hills.

The reason, McEvilly said, was that she was no longer receiving enough insurance payments to cover at-home care and maintain her independence, following the 2019 no-fault insurance reform law in Michigan, parts of which went into effect July 1. 

Dozens of people holds a signs outside the Filippas restaurant in Shelby Township during a protest as Republican Mike Shirkey holds a campaign fundraiser in Shelby Township on Monday, October 25, 2021.

McEvilly joined dozens of care providers and car crash victims Monday to protest the changes made in the law, including a 45% cut in how much auto insurance companies pay for services in residential recovery homes or by attendants who help victims eat, bathe and perform other daily activities. It also limited the number of hours family members can get paid for taking care of crash victims. 

The new law, a bipartisan measure which protesters said left thousands of auto crash victims "scrambling," was introduced to address Michigan's highest-in-the-nation auto insurance costs by reducing insurance premiums and allowing drivers to choose their level of medical coverage. 

Supporters of the law, including the Insurance Alliance of Michigan in July, say that it has helped drivers save upward of $1 billion in premiums and fees since July 2020 and encouraged previously uninsured people to sign up. 

Insurance Alliance of Michigan did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment. 

In June, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged the Legislature to make changes to the law she signed before the 45% fee cut went into effect, but did not say what those changes should encompass. 

"I just want to move back to my home, and for my friends to get the care they need," said McEvilly. "You can't stop people's (lives)."

Meg Hobb of Milford holds a sign outside the Filippas in Shelby Township during a protest as Republican Mike Shirkey a campaign fundraiser in Shelby Township on Monday, October 25, 2021.

The protest was held outside a Shelby Township restaurant where state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, was holding a fundraiser. Protesters said he has the authority to push what they call necessary changes to the law as majority leader.

The rally was co-organized by Relevar Home Care, a Utica agency that provides in-home care to those with spinal cord or other injuries. 

"We want to fix the fix," said Relevar owner Misty Delegato."We feel that Senator Shirky is able to make the decision to move the bills forward to fix the auto no-fault, and he hasn't done it. He's sort of squelched it and not allowed it to come out of committee." 

Shirky's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Operations coordinator Stephanie Guzak of Dignitas, another care provider that works in Metro Detroit, echoed Delegato's remarks at the protest. 

"You're dealing with people's lives," said Guzak. "This isn't dollars and cents, it isn't all about money."

Guzak said her agency also had not been paid in months, even at the reduced 55% rate. She said the insurance providers were making it near impossible to claim payment, even when they provide documentation multiple times. 

"They are relishing in this," she said, referring to insurance companies. "They're making record profits and they're doing well. The people that they swore to protect based on the insurance policies and the contracts they have, they don't care about that." 

Brad Jones and his mother, Donna Jones, were at the protest Monday to demand that no-fault insurance payments revert back to what they were before July.

“We're all fighting …to keep no fault alive,” said Jones, 37. “It's helping me a lot and it's a big help for the family.”

Jones said he sustained a closed-head injury when he was 19, and doctors told his parents he would die. His mother said because of the medical care that Jones received, including physical therapy for almost 18 years and conscripting family members to help with his care, he survived and now was able to walk with a cane.

“The best care you could possibly have is being at home, where you're with a loved one,” she said. “And they're taking all this away from us.”