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MichMash: Michigan drivers will soon get a refund on their auto insurance payments

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As part of the weekly series MichMash… Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about why that is… and why not everyone is happy about changes to Michigan’s auto insurance laws.

Cheyna Roth: And this is MishMash with the conversation where we try to unjumble and important and sometimes under the radar statewide story that affects you. I'm Cheyna Roth.

Jake Neher: And I'm Jake Neher. Lots to be excited about with the arrival of spring here in Michigan means the weather is getting nicer, knock-on wood, at least for now. And it also means Michigan drivers are expecting a nice little boost to their pocketbook soon.

Cheyna Roth: You may have heard that in the coming weeks drivers will be getting a $400 refund on their auto insurance. We actually already got ours. The reason for that is the historic 2019 auto insurance overhaul that Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law as an attempt to lower insurance rates. A.K.A. the first and last time the governor and Republicans in Lansing were able to agree on a huge policy bill. And honestly it feels like forever ago.

Jake Neher: It sure does. But while, many people are celebrating this extra cash in their pockets. Many critically injured people are worried about losing their care because of the other changes that happened in the law which went into effect in 2020. Chad Livengood is senior editor for politics and policy at Crain's Detroit Business. He spoke to Stephen Henderson recently on WDET’s Detroit Today, saying that thousands of Michigan drivers who are seriously hurt in auto accidents could soon lose a lot, including their ability to live at home.

Stephen Henderson: There's about 18,000 drivers. Many are paralyzed or on ventilators who get their long-term care paid for by this fund. And this is the kind of the cornerstone of Michigan's unique auto insurance law and other states you typically end up in Medicaid and you live in a nursing home.

Chyena Roth: The reason people are likely to lose their coverage now is because the 2019 law kept the payments to home health care companies at 55% of what they were charging the fund that pays for those services in January of 2019. Basically, imagine that suddenly you have your income slashed by almost half. It would probably make it difficult to maintain your business or your home or your lifestyle.

Jake Neher: And despite protestations since the law went to effect. There have been many. It's been pretty consistent. It doesn't look like there will be any changes to the law, at least not anytime soon. Michigan Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, a Republican, said on Wednesday that there are no plans to change the law. Wentworth, it's worth noting, was a key backer of the 2019 auto insurance overhaul.

Cheyna Roth: According to the Detroit News Wentworth said of the various changes he's considered, “they all either move us back toward the old status quo or put the savings and refund checks from Michigan drivers at risk. At this point, it's time to move on.”

Jake Neher: And politics, as you might imagine, is at play in an election year. Although governor Whitmer has said that she's open to changes and fixes to the law in the past, and she said that for a while now. She's concentrating her messaging around those $400 checks with the hopes that drivers will remember that boost when they go to the polls in November.

[MUSIC]

Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth host the weekly series MichMash. To hear more about what’s going on with Michigan’s auto insurance law… you can listen to the MichMash podcast. Just search M-I-C-H-M-A-S-H wherever podcasts are available.

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