LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Rehabilitation facilities and in-home providers who help people catastrophically injured in car crashes could apply for $25 million in state aid under legislation that was advanced to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday, two days before rate cuts take effect.
The Senate unanimously approved the bill after amending it to allot $25 million instead of $10 million. The House blessed the change on a 79-30 vote.
Starting Friday, there will be a 45% reduction in what auto insurers can be billed for post-acute services that do not have a Medicare code. The Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic governor slashed reimbursements as part of a 2019 law to lower drivers' premiums by containing medical costs and letting them forgo unlimited benefits.
The funding would be available on a first-come, first-served basis to providers that document a "systematic deficit" due to the limits on charges. The program would be administered by the Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
Some neurological rehab centers have announced they will close due to the cuts and have told residents to find alternative living arrangements.
The $25 million is "not even close" to what is needed, said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., an East Lansing Democrat who has unsuccessfully advocated for implementing what he and brain injury clinics say would be a more reasonable fee schedule. "What I do believe is that that is a bridge to this body and the House trying to find an answer. Those families deserve nothing less than that."
The Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council, a trade group, criticized the legislation and said lawmakers should not use taxpayer money to fix the problem — pointing to $23 billion in a nonprofit fund that is funded by motorists who want unlimited medical benefits. The association said at least 678 patients could be displaced, and nearly 1,500 workers could lose their jobs this summer.
The insurance industry says the lower medical charges will rein in overcharging and are the main driver of a significant drop in the per-vehicle fee for unlimited personal protection benefits. It will be $86 starting Friday, down from $220 shortly after the law was signed.
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