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Michigan to educate drivers about big insurance changes

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  Michigan’s top insurance regulator said the state is committed to helping drivers navigate a new law that will let motorists save money by foregoing unlimited medical coverage for crash injuries.

The state Department of Insurance and Financial Services created a consumer hotline and email address to respond to questions and complaints. Also, a new website has information about the changes that take effect starting in July.

Department director Anita Fox detailed the resources, as well as sample forms that drivers will be asked to fill out when they buy or renew a policy, during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters Tuesday about the 2019 law. It was the most significant rewrite of Michigan’s no-fault insurance in more than 45 years.

“We’re really focused on the key aspects of the law ... that we are implementing a law that is a better system for Michigan drivers,” Fox said.

She did not rule out using advertising to make motorists aware of the changes.

Personal injury protection, or PIP, is the portion of an auto insurance premium that covers medical treatment and rehabilitation expenses. It also covers lost wages and assistance with things like cooking and cleaning.

The law will let drivers opt out of what has been mandatory, unlimited PIP coverage, in a state with the country’s most expensive car insurance premiums. There will be six PIP levels: unlimited; $500,000; $250,000; another $250,000 option that excludes medical coverage if the driver has other health insurance covering car crashes; $50,000, if the motorist is enrolled in Medicaid; and zero coverage, if the driver has Medicare coverage.

“What I want consumers to know is the best thing we can do for you is help you get the information you need,” Fox said. “What (are) the things you’re going to need to know to make choices? Then sit down with your agent, your company, your family and kind of think about what it is that works for you.”

The new PIP limits will still equal or exceed the highest benefits in the U.S, she said. Michigan will continue to be the only state where unlimited PIP is available.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraged motorists to use the educational resources before choosing a policy.

Under the law, insurers must reduce statewide average PIP medical premiums for eight years. They also will be prohibited from using certain non-driving factors — home ownership, educational level, occupation, ZIP code or credit scores — in setting rates.

Fox said regulators hired outside firms to review insurers’ filings. Previously, she said, actuarial reviews were done and certified by the companies.

The reviews will ensure “that the charges for premiums and the rates that they put in are going to have the right relationship to risk,” Fox said.

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