Emmett Township resident Ed Mainguy was only a mile away from home when a deer ran in front of his car, causing a catastrophic injury that drastically changed his life for auto insurance law.
His auto insurance provided unlimited medical coverage that has paid for the cost of his rehabilitation. But with changes to Michigan’s auto insurance law, which went into effect July 1, Michiganders can now choose to limit the amount of medical care their insurance will cover or opt out of medical coverage entirely.
Mainguy broke his neck and injured his shoulder, causing him to be bedridden for a time and dependent on the help of others for basic functions like walking and eating. Now, two years later, with treatment from the DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, Mainguy can walk with a cane or walker and has regained basic skills.
Mainguy said without the unlimited insurance coverage, he likely would have been moved to an assisted living facility, instead of living at home with his wife. He also would have faced great financial hardship.
“It can happen to anyone, what happened to me,” he said.
What is Michigan’s new law?
Under the new law, drivers are no longer required to carry unlimited personal injury protection coverage.
Drivers can now choose to cap their personal injury coverage, with the highest limit starting at $500,000 per person per crash and the lowest at $50,000, or opt out of personal injury coverage completely, according to the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
State Farm Insurance agent Jill Adams said options and requirements vary based on whether drivers have a state-funded health insurance, like Medicare of Medicaid, or private insurance.
The law requires insurance companies to lower premiums for the personal injury coverage so there will be an average reduction per vehicle based on the level of coverage chosen. However, individuals’ savings and rates are based off a number of factors, such as driving record.
The law also raised the minimum bodily injury/property damage rates, from $20,000 if one person is hurt or killed and $40,000 if several people are hurt or killed to $50,000 and $100,000, respectively. The coverage provides medical care for other drivers injured in a crash the policyholder caused, or protects the policyholder if other people sue them for injuries caused in a crash.
The law also prohibits auto insurance companies from using non-driving factors, including sex, marital status, homeownership, credit score, educational level, occupation and zip code, in setting auto insurance rates.
Ali Zein, director of admissions and clinical rehabilitation manager of the neuroscience unit for the DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, said even a coverage limit of $250,000 might only cover up to your last surgery or hospital stay, at which point the best medical care to gain functional independence would be provided at an in-patient rehabilitation facility.
However, the coverage provided by private and public health insurances for rehabilitation services can be minimal, he said, and usually would not cover a stay in an in-patient rehabilitation facility.
“The patient now just missed out on this intense program of inpatient rehab to where they can gain functional independence to do things for themselves and not depend on others,” he said.
Zein urged drivers to calculate the risk they take if they choose limited medical coverage in exchange for savings on their premiums.
“Cheaper is not always the best option,” Zein said.
Adams urged policyholders to talk to their insurance agents, as every individuals’ situation is different.
“We look at each individual and go over all their coverages individually and we let them make that decision,” she said.
She said, in her experience, very few people have chosen to completely omit personal injury protection. A substantial number of people have chosen to lower their personal injury protection, while others have chosen to stay with unlimited personal injury protection. The most popular option, she said, is $250,000.
Source: THE TIMES HERALD