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Feb. 21--LANSING -- Proponents of reforming Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law heard from a powerful foe this week when Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson posted a letter on his website saying changes would hurt the state's economy, critically injured people and health systems in the state.
"Any attempt to change the current law without having independent third party financial information is reckless and would result in damage to Michigan's economy, shift millions of dollars of cost from private insurance to Medicaid and destroy the livelihood of Michigan's catastrophically injured auto accident victims," he wrote.
Patterson is in a unique position to know. He was critically injured in a car crash on Aug. 10 and spent weeks in the hospital. He suffered multiple broken bones, was in a coma for 17 days, goes through physical therapy several times a week and still has to use a wheelchair to get around. His driver, James Cram, was paralyzed in the crash.
Gov. Rick Snyder put reform of the state's auto no fault law front and center in his State of the State speech in January. He said that Michigan's status as the 10th most expensive state for auto insurance was a drag on the economy and called for major changes. He called for limits on the size of medical claims. Drivers pay an annual fee -- it's $175 this year -- into the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, which reimburses insurers for costs of more than $500,000 for the care and treatment of those seriously injured in automobile accidents.
A no-fault reform bill was introduced last year and got out of committee, but never was voted on by the full House of Representatives. Some House members have promised to reintroduce the bill this year.
While the accident heightened his awareness of insurance issues, it wasn't the spark for his letter, said Deputy Oakland County Executive Gerald Poisson. Patterson had been working on the issue last spring, far before he was involved in the two-car crash in Auburn Hills.
"He and his driver's care costs are charged to workers comp, but it is fate that he would find himself in this position," Poisson said. "Our position is there is too much unknown and too much secrecy here to make such a big policy change."
Patterson will prove to be a powerful ally to groups looking to slow, stop, or at least modify the no-fault reform momentum.
"We think he's the voice of reason," said Laura Appel, spokeswoman for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. "He just comes at this from the perspective of let's be careful about big changes without more careful deliberation."
He's also the voice of experience, Appel said.
"Anytime somebody experiences these circumstances, you learn really quickly what it means to deal with this. These are life-changing circumstances that are extremely expensive."
Contact Kathleen Gray: 313-223-4407 or [email protected]
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