Opinion: Michigan residents receiving inaccurate information on no-fault

Julie Novak

Effective communication is one of the most important skills in a physicians’ toolkit. In fact, communication forms the very foundation of the physician-patient relationship.

My organization – the Michigan State Medical Society – represents more than 15,000 physicians throughout our state. We’re concerned that Michigan residents are being fed inaccurate information around no-fault insurance, the model system that saves taxpayers money while ensuring that accident victims get the care they need.

In short, no-fault insurance means that if you get injured in an accident, you will receive the care you need, for as long as you need it. Despite the name, it doesn’t have anything to with establishing who is “at fault” for an accident. A catastrophic collision can happen to anybody, and medical costs can easily rise into the millions—especially for the youngest accident victims, who sometimes need care for the rest of their lives. Thanks to no-fault, we’re able to help these individuals lead the most meaningful, productive lives possible.

No-fault saves taxpayer’s money, as well. In states with a tort system, like Ohio and Indiana, families injured in an accident who are deemed to be at-fault will have nowhere to turn for payment of their medical bills. Meanwhile, attorney fees add up and needed rehabilitative therapies may not be available to them during the long legal process.

Novak writes: "Eliminating no-fault would be a secret tax hike on all Michigan residents, shifting costs to taxpayers instead of reducing them."

As a result, these families are forced into medical bankruptcy and onto Medicaid. When Colorado changed from a no-fault to a tort state, its Medicaid costs increased by 205 percent. Eliminating no-fault would essentially be a secret tax hike on all Michigan residents, shifting costs to taxpayers instead of reducing them.

Sadly, there is a movement to entirely eliminate no-fault in Michigan – a move that would destroy thousands of lives while doing nothing to guarantee lower premiums. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has filed a lawsuit that would declare no-fault unconstitutional, on the basis that rates are not “fair and equitable.” We can all agree that premiums are too high—but eliminating no-fault won’t solve the issue.

We need to hold the insurance companies accountable for their unfair practice of using non-driving rating factors, like gender, credit score and ZIP code, to set rates. We need to bring more transparency to the way rates are set. We need to create a fraud authority that stops fraudulent claims by claimants, providers and insurance companies who knowingly deny legitimate claims. And we need to lower health care costs by setting a fee schedule.

All of these fixes have been proposed in a bipartisan, comprehensive no-fault reform package called the Fair and Affordable plan that will provide a lasting fix to our automobile insurance system. We need fair and affordable auto insurance reform now.

Julie Novak joined Michigan State Medical Society in 1990 and is currently the chief executive officer.