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Big changes come to Michigan’s auto insurance laws on Thursday

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 7:02 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Thursday brought a big change for Michigan drivers.

People receiving in-home care for auto crash injuries are likely to see a massive reduction in how much money they’re reimbursed from insurance companies. It’s part of the state’s auto insurance reform law, which was signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in May 2019.

Virginia Robison of Genesee Township will be affected by the changes. She continues to care for her son, Dennis, who was severely injured in a car crash in 1978.

Robison hopes the changes don’t force her to put Dennis into a nursing home.

He is staying on top of his physical strength, which he does with his caregivers just about every day. Dennis’s life was spared in 1978 when he was involved in a bad car crash, but it took his ability to communicate, see and do a lot of everyday tasks.

“I stay with him at night, and if I have to get up, which is several times a night, because sometimes he’s either dreaming or wets or has a mess and I have to clean it up,” Virginia said. “Sometimes if he’s really sick, I have to stay up all night with him.”

Dennis has two caregivers who help with some of his everyday tasks in addition to his mother. He requires 24-hour care.

“These guys do therapy, they feed him, they make his food, they do his laundry,” Virginia said.

But under changes to Michigan’s auto insurance reform law, the amount of money Virginia is reimbursed from her insurance company for the in home care Dennis receives is going to be 45% less starting Thursday.

That puts Tom McKay, who has been Dennis’s caregiver for 36 years, in a tough financial spot.

“It means that it cuts my pay 45%,” McKay said. “My wife and I can’t live on $8 an hour, which is way less than what fast food places make. And I think human life is way more important than a hamburger.”

The concern here is not only making an honest living, but also making sure Dennis has proper care. Virginia knows he would receive that at a nursing home.

“He wouldn’t last a year in a nursing home,” she said.

The Michigan Senate voted to approve a $25 million fund to help offset financial loss from the auto insurance decrease. The Michigan House approved a similar $10 million fund, so the two chambers will have to reach an agreement before sending a bill to Whitmer.

But with more than 18,000 open catastrophic claims right now in Michigan, that money likely would be exhausted very quickly if lawmakers approve it.

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