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Whitmer urged to speak out more forcefully on auto insurance problems


The Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council has urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to speak out more forcefully on the problems the 2019 historic no-fault auto insurance reform brought on survivors of catastrophic crashes and their medical providers. 

In a Tuesday letter to the governor, the group noted that Whitmer initially was vocal about the need for a bipartisan solution to reform the fee schedule that went in place July 1, 2021. The rule forced medical providers to cut their rates to 55% of what they were charging in January 2019 in an effort to curb costs and increase savings for insured drivers. 

But groups like the brain injury provider council have been crying foul since the change went into place, arguing it is pushing medical providers out of business and leaving crash survivors without the intense care they needed and had received over the years. 

"...We urge you to re-engage on this issue and express with urgency that you stand with crash victims, families, and care providers in need of a legislative solution," said Tom Judd, board president for the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council. 

Whitmer's office said Friday that the governor's commitment to ensuring access to care for the vulnerable "has never wavered" and noted the Democratic governor had communicated with the auto insurance reform opposition group WeCantWait as recently as May 6. 

In the letter, Whitmer said her offers to find a bipartisan solution with the Legislature have been met with "disinterest" and noted earlier comments from the House speaker indicating no amendments would be made this session to the reform.

"We have been in constant communication with crash victims, families, and care providers to strengthen our state’s protections even further," said Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for Whitmer. The governor is ready to work with lawmakers seeking changes to the law to ensure people's continued care while maintaining savings already realized through the reform, he said.

"Until the Legislature takes this action, though, the governor has directed the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to hold auto insurers responsible for assisting survivors with securing appropriate care," Leddy said.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Whitmer, in response to medical providers' complaints, set up a $25 million fund that providers could apply to if they could prove a "systemic deficit" as a result of the fee cut. But medical providers have complained said the application process and obstinate insurance companies make it nearly impossible to receive help. 

In the meantime, both Whitmer and the GOP-led Legislature have been touting $400 insurance refunds delivered through the reforms, increases in the number of insured drivers and reported drops in insurance premiums.  

In March, House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said he wouldn't contemplate further changes to the auto insurance law this session and said it was "time to move on."

Since those comments, the brain injury provider council told Whitmer, "the public has not heard from you on this issue" despite hopes that the governor would speak with more urgency as problems escalate.

"We understand that on this issue you are dependent on the Legislature to get something to your desk; however, your silence is being interpreted by crash victims, families, and care providers as agreement with Speaker Wentworth," Judd said. "Your past comments indicate differently, and we are asking that you restate your position with added urgency — ‘moving on’ is not an option."

eleblanc@detroitnews.com