Opinion: High insurance due to overcharging, fraud

Pete Kuhnmuench

It’s no secret that Michigan drivers pay some of the highest auto insurance premiums in the country, and that Detroit drivers pay more for car insurance than drivers in any other city in the country.

Rampant fraud and abuse, overcharging by medical providers and a mandate that every driver purchase unlimited lifetime medical benefits with their auto insurance are the real reasons behind the rising cost of auto insurance premiums in Michigan.

Lawmakers have been trying for years to do the right thing and pass real reforms to fix Michigan’s broken, outdated auto no-fault system, only to have their efforts derailed by those who benefit from the status quo: Trial lawyers and medical providers.

Michigan’s auto no-fault law was initially passed to reduce the number of lawsuits filed after someone was injured in a car accident. But in recent years, lawsuits have increased in both Metro Detroit and Grand Rapids.

New Detroit billboards push auto insurance reforms.

The reason: Greedy trial lawyers have figured out new ways to profit from people injured in a car accident. According to published reports, accident victims are routinely steered towards law firms or medical clinics, which are sometimes interconnected. A recent lawsuit filed in federal court seeks to expose these alleged patient mills.

On the other end, medical providers overcharge patients who are injured in a car accident – frequently as much as two to three times more for the same procedure as other forms of insurance. To put that in perspective, if you are injured in a car accident an MRI will cost more than $5,000. That same MRI, done at the same facility, will cost under $1,000 if you fell off a ladder or tripped walking down the sidewalk.

Furthermore, Michigan drivers are required to purchase unlimited, lifetime medical benefits with their auto insurance. Michigan is the only state in the nation that forces such a costly mandate on its drivers.

For drivers to see relief on rising auto insurance premiums, the Legislature must pass real reforms to fix Michigan’s broken, outdated auto no-fault system. Those reforms include:

* Cracking down on fraud and abuse, which costs the average family hundreds of dollars a year in additional premiums.

* Stop overcharging by medical providers by enforcing a common-sense fee schedule.

* Give consumers a choice in the level of medical coverage that accompanies their car insurance, so they can pick a level that works best for them and their family.

It’s clear that trial lawyers and medical providers will say just about anything to protect their golden goose and ensure the status quo stays intact.

 Pete Kuhnmuench is  executive director of Insurance Alliance of Michigan.