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No No-fault – Michigan Revamps its Auto Insurance Rules

By: Andrew Silverio, Esq.

Recently, the Michigan Senate passed sweeping legislation in an effort to get their auto insurance rates, which are the highest in the nation, under control.  The main way Michigan aims to accomplish this is by eliminating their requirement that auto insurance policies carry unlimited “Personal Protection Insurance” (commonly referred to elsewhere as “Personal Injury Protection” or “PIP” coverage), which is no-fault first party medical coverage.  Under the old system, with exposure to the carrier being quite literally unlimited, premiums predictably climbed to unsustainable levels.

The new law will require that carriers offer PPI options with $500,000 and $250,000 limits, as well as an unlimited option.  It also allows for a $50,000 limit for policyholders on Medicaid only, and importantly, allows policyholders to waive PPI coverage completely if they have Medicare coverage or “other health or accident coverage” which provides benefits for accident claims.

So, why are we talking about changes to auto insurance laws?  Because policies carrying these new limits will shift liability onto health plans.  In light of the previous availability of unlimited PPI coverage, many self-funded Michigan health plans already exclude charges resulting from auto accidents completely.  Under the new law, this should exclude an individual from waiving PPI, however it’s probably unreasonable to expect individuals to be educated enough or review applicable requirements in enough detail to understand these requirements, or for carriers offering these policies to do the legwork to determine whether an applicant’s health plan actually covers auto accident claims.  So, the end result may be that individuals are left with no coverage at all for auto accident claims.  This means that in addition to making sure that plan language is tight, it’s crucial for employers to educate their employees about health coverage and their responsibility to have other coverage available via auto insurance.

This could also impact how plans who don’t exclude auto claims completely – the approach of quickly paying everything up front without question with the understanding that unlimited PPI coverage is available for reimbursement after the fact is no longer such an appealing option.  No matter what the existing approach to these claims, now is the right time for Michigan employers to reexamine how they handle auto accident claims and coordinate with PPI coverage.