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Car accident survivors rally at state Capitol to protest long-term caregiver cuts

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Tracy Samilton
/
Michigan Radio

Chanting, "We can't wait," survivors of catastrophic auto accidents, their families, and friends gathered Wednesday to call on state legislators to take action to prevent deep cuts to payments to their long-term care providers.

Bills to prevent the cuts (HB 4486 and SB 314) have been languishing in committees in the state House and Senate, with no hearings scheduled before elected leaders leave Lansing for summer recess. The 45% cuts will be imposed on July 1 as part of Michigan's new auto insurance law.

Roderick Munro suffered injuries in a car accident ten years ago that left him a quadriplegic.  He needs 24/7 care and said that's now in jeopardy.

"Insurance companies are going to cut the rates that they pay my home care company," said Munro, "and one that I used to be with has already decided to go out of business because of it."

Speakers at the rally said the cuts are unconstitutional, because they change the terms of contracts survivors had with their auto insurance companies before they were injured.

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Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio
Steven Howell, age 54.  He suffered catastrophic injuries in a car accident 20 years ago and has since been relying on long-term rehab treatment from Michigan's old no fault auto insurance law. Like many survivors, he faces the threat of losing his current care due to changes in the law made in 2019.

Jean Baumgard became quadriplegic in 1998 after a car accident. She said state legislators do not seem to care what happens to people who could lose crucial home care or have to move out of specialized residential settings.

"They think that we can wait, but they can go off and go have fun with their families," she said. "They don't worry about us, about who's going to be taking care of us."

Michigan's 2019 auto insurance reforms were pushed through late-night sessions in what many observers and legislators say was great haste. Dozens of state legislators have since signed a memorandum stating they were not told prior to the vote that the long-term care provider cuts would be retroactive, thus removing necessary care from many survivors with brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.

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Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio
Rally at the state Capitol June 10, 2021 to protest large cuts in payments for long-term care providers for auto accident survivors

Accident survivors who are dependent on ventilators are at an especially heightened risk of consequences from the law, including death. If the companies providing their current care go out of business, there are only a handful of beds available across the state in nursing homes that have the capacity to care for them.  

Hospital administrators and long-term care providers say there are hundreds of such patients who will be scrambling to find alternate care in a cruel version of medical musical chairs.  

The new law also limits the number of hours that a family member can be paid to take care of a catastrophically injured loved one. Starting on July 1, they'll be limited to 56 hours a week, which will slash the household income of many of the affected families.

Opponents of the law say many people don't understand that the cuts will affect future survivors, even people who pay for the lifetime medical care option on their policies.

That's because many of the high-quality home care and specialized residential treatment centers could disappear due to the cuts. That leaves the only option for many survivors a lower-quality bed in a nursing home with dramatically fewer rehabilitation and other services regardless of how much, or how little, they paid for their insurance.

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