The battle currently raging over Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance system is really a microcosm of a bigger battle that is being waged on a national level—should citizens allow their politicians to reduce lifetime medical care coverages? We saw this issue surface last summer during the national debt ceiling debate when many politicians refused to approve a new federal debt ceiling unless Congress passed laws significantly reducing Medicare coverages for senior citizens. The message delivered to Congress was loud and clear—Americans do not want to give up their health care in order to help politicians solve problems that can be addressed with other solutions.
The same dynamic is occurring here in Michigan with regard to the insurance industry’s efforts to pass legislation that would effectively end the Michigan no-fault system as we presently know it. Under the current Michigan no-fault law, all persons sustaining injury in motor vehicle accidents have lifetime full medical coverage for “all reasonably necessary products, services, and accommodations for an injured person’s care, recovery, or rehabilitation.” Therefore, any one who is injured in a motor vehicle accident in this State is assured their full medical needs will be met as long as they live.
The Michigan auto insurance industry wants to change that lifetime medical care system. Consequently, they are heavily backing HB 4936 which will eliminate lifetime full medical care coverage and replace it with a system that allows consumers to buy medical care coverage in only three specific coverage levels—$500,000, $1,000,000, or $5,000,000. Lifetime full medical coverage will no longer be available. The insurance industry says this change is needed because, in the future, auto no-fault insurance will be unaffordable.
The problem is, the Michigan insurance industry engaged in the same type of fear mongering back in 1992 and in 1994 which led to two ballot proposals that contained basically the same concepts as those contained in the current HB 4936. On both occasions, Michigan voters resoundingly rejected the insurance industry’s ideas by margins of 62% to 38%. So, Michigan voters have, on two previous occasions, made it very clear they do not want their lifetime medical coverage limited. What it is about “no” that politicians do not understand?
What is even more exasperating is that the Michigan auto no-fault system has proven to be a tremendous success. Surely after it went into effect in 1973, the Michigan no-fault system became widely acclaimed nationally as a “model system” for the way it dealt with motor vehicle injuries. Over the next 38 years, our law proved to be just that. In fact, the Michigan no-fault system is probably the closest this country has ever come to creating a system of universal health care for at least one population of patients. In reality, medical coverage under the Michigan No-Fault Act is broader than any coverage, under any other health reparations system in the United States; it is broader than Medicare; it is broader than Medicaid; it is broader than Blue Cross/Blue Shield; it is broader than workers’ compensation; it is broader than veterans benefits. For those sustaining serious injury in motor vehicle accidents in Michigan, our no-fault law is indeed a universal health care system.
But more importantly, we have achieved this universal health care for auto accident patients without spending one penny of taxpayer money. Moreover, we have done it without creating a single governmental agency to oversee the program, and we have done it without thousands of pages of governmental regulations that bury the system in bureaucracy. We have created this masterpiece through citizen participation in a broad program that fully funds all reasonably necessary medical care for accident victims. It is ironic that at a time when we ought to be encouraging politicians across America to emulate what we have done here in Michigan, our Michigan politicians are seriously considering dismantling this masterpiece of medical care.
We are nearing the fork in the road. If we allow our politicians to dismantle our medical care system in order to come up with funding to resolve other fiscal problems, we will soon be a third World country in terms of citizen access to quality medical care. This is what truly is at stake in the current auto no-fault debate in Michigan. Once again, it is time for Michigan voters to stand tall and loudly proclaim to politicians to “keep your hands off of our auto no-fault medical care.” If we let them get away with it here, they will never stop.