Bill ending unlimited coverage requirement concerns crash victims

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.

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  • Kevin Rahe

    I’m sure those who benefit from it find the MCCA extremely valuable. The problem is that the cost of it drives people out of the insurance market altogether and has them instead going without any insurance at all. How much sense does that make?

  • Denise Shattuck

    My husband was in a severe accident almost 7 years ago. The no-fault insurance was our protector and security. Without no-fault, you may not get wage replacement for 3 years. You would have to wait as the insurances fight to see who is at fault which can be years. If there are extreme medical costs, the customer/patient can be devastated medically. It could cause home loss, no means of feeding their family, no heat, no electric and could lead to death due to not getting the proper care, financial devastation. Now with no fault, each insurance covers their customer with lost wages, all accident caused medical needs coverage. The amount of coverage determined by the customer. It covers the injured driver, also, if the other driver has no insurance, your insurance still provides for your needs. No fault is needed, get the facts. I understand people who have never had an accident, wouldn’t realize how important the coverages are!!!

    • Cindy

      This bill has nothing to do with no-fault coverage. It would simply allow people to choose the level of coverage for medical bills in an accident instead of mandating that it’s unlimited coverage. Michigan is the only state with that mandate, so we’re obviously doing something wrong if it’s working just fine for everybody else. Your health insurance company is who should be responsible for your care for longer term injuries such as paralysis.

  • Bud

    From the description of the accident, sounds like nobody in the car was wearing a seat belt. Whitmer doesn’t have a clue what to do. If it were up to democrats, they would pass laws to have your employer send your check to the government and then THEY would decide what you can live on.

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