Friday, October 14, 2011

Michigan Republicans Ready to Shift the Cost of Catastrophic Care to Taxpayers

Wave goodbye to our insurance laws that provided rehabilitation and/or lifetime care for those who suffer catastrophic injuries in an auto accident, as the "small government" Republicans are suddenly more than happy to shift those costs away from the insurance industry and onto the taxpayers as the provider of last resort.

The MI GOP, who spent years screaming about trial lawyers and have fought to limit your ability to sue for damages under the guise of "tort reform", is now telling you that you should take your claims to court if the unthinkable happens. And if that doesn't work for you, then the party that wants to privatize Social Security and eliminate Medicaid/Medicare wants you to turn to those programs should you need help paying for your medical costs.

Either way, most of the bills will ultimately go to the taxpayer in yet another attempt to write laws that "privatize profits, socialize losses". The mind reels at the hypocrisy.

The effort to end lifetime benefits for those severely injured in an automotive accident took its first big step forward Thursday under legislation the House Insurance Committee reported that makes major changes to the state's auto no-fault system.

With the end of unlimited coverage for catastrophic care, motorists could choose from coverage limits of $500,000, $1 million and $5 million, under HB 4936.

You can hazard a guess that the $5 million platform will cost the big bucks, and most motorists will go for the cheapest policy possible. But what happens if that doesn't cover the cost of injury? Well, when you have a gubernatorial appointee that has spent a lifetime improving the bottom line of insurance companies running the state's Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, amazingly enough the majority of those costs will now go to anyone but the insurance companies.

Rep. Roy Schmidt (D-Grand Rapids) said his concern remained about those who would choose the minimum level of coverage and then be unable to afford treatment for injuries that are well above $500,000.

(OFIR Commissioner Kevin) Clinton said he is concerned about that as well, but people can use their health insurance, go on Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security, or they can sue people. He said that is the way it works in the other 49 states.

"That's not a good answer," Schmidt said.

Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) agreed.

"Basically, we're telling middle class families throughout the state now that if you actually are injured in a catastrophic accident, you're going to have to spend down to poverty levels to qualify for Medicaid to get the benefits that you would have had under no-fault," Segal said.

Guess you'll just have to get a lawyer. Too bad your firm's hands will be tied after Republicans removed the pertinent legal language, making sure those damage awards are limited.

The Republican amendments removed restrictions on motorcyclists' ability to sue for damages, struck language regarding the definition of pain and suffering, and exempted ambulance companies providing emergency services from the workers' compensation fee schedule.

In what has become standard operating procedure for this Legislature, the bills were changed at the last minute and rushed through committee before they knew what they were voting for. This sets us up later for the "Incompetence Excuse", as seen earlier this year on other major initiatives regarding tax reform, welfare reform, the funding for MEDC credits, and the destruction of the film industry. Might as well add this one to the list now.

Rep. Andrew Kandrevas (D-Southgate), the minority vice chair, asked the substitute not be voted on because his members received the 42-page bill about an hour and a half before the meeting started.

We won't be having any of that "bipartisanship" stuff either, as Democrats were again denied a voice. And to make it all stick, we're going to make sure the citizens don't have a recourse through referendum should they be thinking about any of those silly ballot proposals.

There were four Democratic amendments. All were rejected.

They dealt with the pay for in-home care workers, adding more transparency to the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association board, making sure medical providers were reimbursed in a timely fashion and removing the $50,000 appropriation in the bill that would make it referendum-proof.

But don't worry, these changes will open up the market for "competition", because we all know how that has drastically reduced the cost of insurance over the last decade or so, right?