GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A bill recently passed through the state Senate would eliminate the requirement that drivers must purchase unlimited medical benefits to cover crash injuries, which has victims worried about the future of their health care.
Many know Mary K. Hoodhood for her work as the founder of Kid's Food Basket. Before her success with the nonprofit, Hoodhood was in a horrific car crash.
On May 24, 1980, Hoodhood was driving up north with her soon-to-be husband and stepdaughter.
“We were going up to Silver Lake for the weekend, Memorial Day weekend," Hoodhood says.
Suddenly, a little boy ran out into the street to the mailbox. Hoodhood's husband swerved.
He and his daughter were thrown from the car, and Hoodhood was trapped inside for two hours.
She woke up at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital in Grand Rapids to learn she had a C4-5 spinal cord injury, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down.
“People don’t understand you know, all the bills that you incur with an injury like this," Hoodhood says. "You know, and my injury is obviously very, very extensive and traumatic.”
Hoodhood requires constant care and help with nearly everything. She estimates her medical costs over the last 39 years have surpassed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Nearly all of it has been covered by the unlimited medical coverage from her car insurance, along with Medicare.
“It saved me a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry," Hoodhood says.
The Republican-backed Senate Bill 1 was passed on a 24-14 vote on Tuesday. A major part of the measure would allow drivers to choose lower levels of personal injury protection, instead of the current requirement that drivers purchase unlimited medical benefits to cover injuries from crashes.
The Life Beyond Barriers Rehabilitation Group in Rockford helps people with injuries like Hoodhood's. Marketing relations specialist Andrea Gubbini says unlimited medical benefits, often from car insurance, is what makes their care possible.
“It’s amazing how much it costs, you know all together and then once they have an injury, you know a lot of these injuries such as spinal cord injury or brain injury, it requires a life-long treatment plan.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has already said that she will veto the bill if it makes it to her desk because she believes it only cuts coverage and doesn't do enough to protect consumers.
“I am eager to work with the Legislature to get real solutions but they haven’t shown a propensity for real solutions," Whitmer says.
The bill is gaining support from drivers looking to cut back on some of the highest car insurance premiums in the country.
Hoodhood says she supports some aspects of the bill, like its crackdown on fraud but cutting the requirement for unlimited medical coverage would be devastating.
“Oh, catastrophic, just another catastrophic thing in my life," Hoodhood says.
The Republican-led House is crafting its own bill on the matter and is expected to take a vote Wednesday evening.