Published in Health Care

Hospital trade group launches awareness campaign over new auto insurance laws

BY Tuesday, June 16, 2020 04:19pm

The Lansing trade association for hospitals across Michigan urges vehicle owners to opt for the highest level of medical coverage under a revised no-fault auto insurance law that takes effect July 1.

The law now requires drivers to select what level of medical coverage they want in their auto policy and ends the automatic unlimited lifetime medical benefits for people injured in a vehicle crash. Drivers can now opt for lower coverage amounts, including completely opting out of personal injury protection.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association hopes that drivers will choose to keep unlimited medical coverage in their vehicle insurance policies.

“Drivers who purchase less medical coverage may see some initial savings in their auto insurance premiums, but they need to understand the potential risk they’re taking if they are injured in a car accident,” association CEO Brian Peters said.

State legislators enacted the auto no-fault reform law in May 2019 to generate relief from auto insurance rates in Michigan that repeated studies have shown are among the highest in the nation, a status largely attributed to the present law requiring unlimited medical coverage that provides lifetime care for people traumatically injured in vehicle crashes.

Under changes coming in just two weeks, drivers have options for medical coverage with their auto insurance:

  • Unlimited coverage,
  • Up to $500,000 in medical coverage per person, per crash,
  • Up to $250,000 in medical coverage per person per crash,
  • Up to $50,000 in coverage per person per crash,
  • Opting out of medical coverage, also known as personal injury protection coverage.

The MHA’s DriveProtected.org website cites data showing that a person injured in a vehicle crash on average incurs medical bills of $4,000 for an ER visit, and $70,000 if they are hospitalized. The association encourages drivers to “evaluate their options very carefully and buy as much (medical) coverage as they can afford,” and keep the personal injury protection (PIP) benefit “if they can do so,” said Ruthanne Sudderth, the association’s senior vice president for public affairs and communications. 

The MHA on Monday launched an awareness campaign using billboards and radio ads and social media to inform drivers of changes in the law and their options for medical coverage. The “Big Changes Ahead” campaign and accompanying website, DriveProtected.org, comes in response to MHA survey data earlier this year that showed low public awareness of the changes to the law “and how it may affect their lives,”

The MHA’s goal is to make people aware of the pending changes and “what kind of choices that they need to make, and what the potential benefits and impacts of those decisions might be,” Sudderth said.

“Our hospital members across the state see firsthand what having good PIP coverage does to support drivers and their families that are injured in an accident, whether they have acute-care needs and are better in a few weeks, or sometimes they need months or years of rehabilitative services,” Sudderth said. “Accidents are very costly, especially if you need long-term rehabilitative care.”

The medical coverage in a person’s auto policy may also cover items that health insurance does not, such as if a person severely injured in a crash needs modifications to their home and an attendant for ongoing home care.

In addition to the PIP option, the new no-fault law in July 2021 implements a fee schedule for care providers treating people injured in a crash.

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