Yet another Republican is looking to make changes to the state’s auto-no fault fee cap despite statements from top lawmakers earlier this year that changes would not be on the docket for the rest of the legislative term.
Last year, the implementation of a fee schedule cut reimbursement from insurance companies for health care services provided to auto accident survivors not covered under Medicare by 45%. Many care providers say the change could put them out of business, and their patients say they’re losing access to high-quality care.
That’s an issue for Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, who earlier this month introduced House Bill 6371. His legislation seeks to model Michigan’s fee schedule after the way worker’s compensation claims are paid out.
Yaroch argued that worker’s compensation was already pretty much set up to pay out for injuries, saying it was the “most simple solution to this.”
“In the six years I’ve been in the legislature, nobody’s come to me and complained that the worker’s comp fee schedule was broken,” he said. “Which is why it’s hard to argue this is a bad fee schedule when the providers and insurance companies haven’t been in to argue that that’s a bad plan.”
The bill was introduced Sept. 14 and immediately sent to the House Rules and Competitiveness Committee where it has yet to receive a hearing. Given that the legislature’s last confirmed session day prior to the Nov. 8 midterms is Wednesday, Sept. 28 – and as of time of publication, this bill has not appeared on any agendas – movement seems unlikely.
Yaroch is not the first Republican this term to buck the party’s position on taking up changes to the current auto-no fault fee schedule, however. At the start of this year Rep. Phil Green, R-Millington, also introduced legislation to amend the schedule, calling his idea more of a “cascade approach.”
HB 5698, if enacted, would accomplish four things, each of which deal with the payment structure. This would include creating a fee schedule rather than a fee cap and linking the fee structure to an already existing program inside of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Like Yaroch, Green’s bill was introduced and immediately referred to a committee where it has sat awaiting a hearing since Jan. 26. HB 5698 also boasts broad bipartisan support as 14 Republicans and more than 40 Democratic lawmakers co-sponsored the legislation.
Those Republicans included Rep. Scott VanSingel of Grant, Rep. Timmy Beson of Bay City, Rep. Greg Markkanen of Hancock, Rep. Gary Howell of North Branch, Rep. Tommy Brann of Wyoming, Rep. John Roth of Interlochen, Rep. David Martin of Davison, Rep. John Damoose of Harbor Springs, Rep. Matt Maddock of Milford, Rep. Ben Frederick of Owosso, Rep. Bob Bezotte of Howell, Rep. Pat Outman of Six Lakes, Rep. Sue Allor of Wolverine and Yaroch himself.
When asked earlier this year why House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, was not interested in pursuing any further changes to the law, a spokesperson said Wentworth had yet to see a plan that “protects the good actors while also securing the savings and the refund checks that drivers have seen.”
Asked again Tuesday, Sept. 27, spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro said that belief hasn’t changed but that Wentworth was “always willing to hear new ideas and suggestions.”
“He hasn’t seen any large changes yet that will improve the system while still protecting the significant savings and rebates that have been delivered to Michigan drivers,” he told MLive. “Like other bills, however, he’s going to let Rep. Yaroch and others work on this bill before weighing in.”
Since going into effect at least 4,082 health care worker jobs have been eliminated and 6,857 auto crash patients have been discharged from their full-time care due to the reforms, according to a survey released mid-August.
However that same month, a 2-1 Court of Appeals panel ruled that the cost controls associated with the changes to Michigan’s auto no-fault system were unconstitutional and did not retroactively apply to survivors whose crashes occurred prior to the 2019 change in the law.
Chalisse Wilson, speaking on behalf of the grassroots Facebook Group We Cant Wait – created for catastrophically injured auto crash survivors, families, providers and friends – said in a statement sent to MLive Tuesday that the continued lack of legislative leadership was “a death sentence.”
“We are struggling to hang on and people are truly suffering due to lack of resources,” she said. “It has been over a year and people died, yet we’re told to move on. … Prior to the reform, necessary care was provided through a network of agencies, families and other specialized facilities. Now the system is decimated. The result – catastrophically injured patients are left without the life-sustaining care they need to survive.”
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