As a teenager, I didn’t understand the nebulous thing about auto-no-fault insurance. I knew from experience how teenagers drove cars, which was usually fast and reckless. My youthful sense of invincibility took on a shocking dose of reality in 1977 when my 20-year-old neighbor, whom I will call “Bob” for privacy, had his car crashed.
I only remember a few details of Bob driving home late from his girlfriend’s house and ending up in a deep ditch. After that, I haven’t seen Bob for years and only occasionally heard rumors about whether he would be alive or not and what his condition would be like if he did.
It wasn’t until decades later that I found out that Bob actually lived in a group home run by the Hope Network company I now work for. The program he lives in provides oversight, structure, and the necessary supports typical of many brain injuries, including drug management, organization and planning, transportation, and other things that most of us take for granted.
Forty-two years after Bob’s accident, Michigan lawmakers decided he no longer deserves it after spending almost a lifetime ensuring the best quality of life possible. Beginning July 1 of this year, Bob’s inpatient care legislation will cut funding for Bob’s home care by 45 percent. Organizations like Hope Network, which specialize in caring for victims of catastrophic accidents like Bob, are expected to accept this massive cut in funding. In reality, however, few companies are likely to survive.
There is no grandfather clause to protect Bob, although his lifelong care costs were fully covered by his auto insurance company as early as 1977. Thousands of people across the state are facing the same dark reality – loss of insurance funding and nowhere.
While old stereotypes surfaced in Lansing, most Republicans have attributed the saying that “we don’t want to pick winners and losers”. It’s a line that I used myself when I was a state representative from 2009 to 2014. Well, in the case of the auto insurance reform, lawmakers have made sure that disaster insurance providers and their patients are at the end of their “reforms”. ”
Post-acute healthcare facilities employ thousands of people and serve thousands more each year. Both the hardworking people in these facilities and their patients will have limited options once Michigan’s no-fault reform comes into effect. Unfortunately, many Michigan lawmakers never realized how the law they passed would affect both future and already disabled citizens like my ex-neighbor Bob.
Another Lansing stereotype popular with Republicans goes back to Medicaid’s expansion when they said, “We don’t want to replace a private-sector solution with a government solution.” Whether they realize it or not, that’s what they did. When private rehab providers go out of business and people like Bob go without a worry, our taxpayers’ money through the Medicaid system will take care of the bill. Bob and thousands like him will only be able to turn to government-run nursing homes.
Michigan’s no-fault reform bill was passed in 2019, and lawmakers have since been warned of its shortcomings. It’s time to take responsibility to resolve this issue before it’s too late. The solution is done with bills awaiting hearings in both the House and Senate.
For lawmakers wishing to put this problem aside or wait and see, I urge you to ask yourself, “What will happen to the organizations and staff who care for these people?” More importantly, “Where do injured car crash survivors go from July 1st?” If you cannot honestly answer these questions, I respectfully ask you to either hand over these bills or to delay the implementation of these cuts for our disabled victims.
– Joe Haveman is a former Republican member of the State House who represented the Holland region from 2009 to 2014. He is currently the director of government relations for Hope Network, a Michigan nonprofit Christian organization that helps people with disabilities live independently.