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Politics & Government

MI Legislators walk out of hearing to prevent vote on bill requiring car companies to pay care providers what they're owed

Michael Wallace Quadriplegic auto accident survivor
Charlie Wallace
/
Michigan Radio
Michael Wallace, who survived a catastrophic car crash, lost his home care agency due to steep cuts in payments from his insurance company under the state's 2019 no fault law.

There was testimony, but no vote, on a bill before the state House Insurance Committee on Thursday to fix one aspect of the controversial 2019 auto no-fault insurance law. 

That's because so many members of the committee walked out of the hearing when Insurance Committee Chair Daire Rendon announced care providers would be testifying on HB 5870, introduced by Republican state Representative Ryan Berman.

Joining the walkout were state Representatives Matt Hall, Beau LaFave, TC Clements, Bronna Kahle, Bryan Posthumus, Mike Harris, and Luke Meerman, and Democats Lori Stone and Kyra Bolden.

Hall was observed speaking with two lobbyists for the Insurance Alliance of Michigan before he departed the room. The Insurance Alliance of Michigan opposes any reform to the 2019 auto no fault law, even though the law is driving providers out of business and leaving car accident victims without medical care.

Berman's bill would require car insurance companies to pay three times the amount charged by a care provider for services provided to an accident patient if the insurer fails to pay the original amount owing within 90 days.

Rendon held a press conference after the hearing. She did not acknowledge the walkout, but defended the bill as necessary to correct a widespread problem. She said insurance companies are waiting extremely long periods before paying providers' bills, or simply not paying them at all.

"We have found that [providers] have not been paid, many of them, since July 1, and that is unconscionable," she said. "And these patients, who've already been victimized once, should not have to be the victim of trying to find health care because 'my provider is no longer going to be in business', or 'they haven't been paid and they're dropping me.'"

Tammy Hannah, president and CEO of Origami Rehabilitation, testified that delays in payments for the care of auto accident survivors now stretch as long as eight months.

"The impact on human lives cannot be disregarded," she said. "When money is only going out, and not coming in, it's impossible to provide care."

Many other bills have been introduced to fix aspects of the 2019 no fault law, or repeal it altogether, but HB 5870 is the only one to receive a hearing. But the lack of a quorum meant no vote to put the bill before the full House could be taken.

Meanwhile, state House Speaker Jason Wentworth has gone on record as opposing any fix to the no fault law this year, saying "it's time to move on."

So far, at least 96 companies that care for crash survivors have gone out of business, or have discharged all of their auto accident patients. More than 1,500 survivors have lost care.

Some have landed in hospitals due to having no where else to go. It's believed at least seven survivors have died after losing their home care.

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