LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) asked the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to use a $5 billion surplus in its fund to give drivers a refund check.
The association agreed.
7 Action News asked Anita Fox, the Director of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, which regulates the insurance industry who will be getting the refund.
“I believe this will be to every single Michigan insured,” said Fox.
She says the refund the governor called for will come in the form of checks sent to insured drivers, even if they chose not to buy MCCA coverage last year. The idea is that all Michigan drivers previously contributed to the base amount in the fund.
“It will be a per vehicle check. They will come with an amount and however vehicles you have insured in Michigan you will get that amount per vehicle,” said Fox.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer has emphasized that the surplus exists because of overpayments, but Fox says it is also in large part due to investment returns and cuts.
“A second thing is, we had a change in the law that allowed for savings in a bunch of different ways,” said Fox.
The change in law included a 45% cut in care for people who suffered catastrophic injuries in car accidents.
“That money that she is giving away to all drivers is supposed to be paying for April’s care and everybody’s care,” said Gabriel Mongefranco of Ann Arbor.
Gabriel Mongefranco says the savings came at the expense of people like his wife April, who suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident, leaving her in need of 24-hour care.
They have two children, Ezra and Christina.
“They are so young, 3 and 6. They need their mom,” said April.
The couple says they are emptying their retirement savings to pay for caregivers because they say insurance stopped covering the costs needed when the 45% coverage cut went into effect in July. They fear April will face life in a Medicaid facility once their savings run out in a few months if lawmakers and the governor don’t approve introduced legislation that would restore funding for care.
“I remember April telling me she would rather die than be separated from our children,” said Gabriel.
“It is like you lose purpose of what you are supposed to do,” said April.
“I think people don’t understand what is at stake. They look at it as, hey, it's found money,” said Professor Wayne Miller, Wayne State University Law School.
Attorney Miller has represented crash victims as they fight for care and says their concerns that the refund could put their futures at risk are legitimate.
We do not know yet how the refund will be calculated by the MCCA. It is a private organization run by insurance companies not required by the law to answer to FOIA or hold open meetings.
“Of course nothing is free and there are reasons that surplus existed,” said Miller.
Fox says the refund is supposed to be an amount that does not put the future of the fund at risk. Her office is personally negotiating with insurance companies on behalf of some of the approximately 18,000 patients experiencing cuts.
“Towards what we hope is an acceptable care plan. And if we can’t find something right away, that is something the legislature needs to know that there are people struggling to find care still,” said Fox.
She says if you are struggling due to the cuts, call her office so she can help or at least share data on the impact with lawmakers considering legislation.
You can contact DIFS Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by calling 833-ASK-DIFS (833-275-3437) or at Michigan.gov/DIFScomplaints.