HomeCar InsuranceBills would open Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to public scrutiny

Bills would open Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to public scrutiny

Diane Mills-Gutierrez and spouse at MCCA protest

Diane Mills-Gutierrez and spouse at MCCA protest

New bills (SB 793 and SB 794) would increase transparency into the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA).

The insurance industry-managed MCCA is responsible for payments for lifetime claims for medical treatment over $635,000 for catastrophic car crash injuries.

Car insurance customers who want lifetime coverage for severe injuries sustained in car crashes pay an additional MCCA fee on their premiums. The amount is set by the insurance companies that run the MCCA.

Among other things, the bills would subject the agency to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act; require the board to have members of the public in addition to insurance companies; and require public disclosure of its finances and methodology.

The bills would also eliminate the association’s ability to assess fees to drivers who do not choose the unlimited PIP option. Currently, the law allows the MCCA to charge all drivers for shortfalls in the fund, even if they are ineligible to receive benefits.

“As inflation and insurance costs continue to skyrocket, Michigan drivers are bearing the burden every day,” said Senator Mary Cavanagh, lead sponsor of the bill package. “Our current laws leave Michiganders in the dark about the MCCA’s methodology and processes in imposing mandatory fees on every driver in the state. Drivers are entitled to know how fees are determined, as well as only pay for the coverage they are choosing. ”

Car insurance expert Doug Heller, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, said having members of the public serve on the MCCA’s board could prevent inappropriate or political uses of the fund, similar to what occurred in 2022.

In the spring of that year, the MCCA, in response to an earlier request by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, sent drivers “refunds” of $400 per vehicle, from an alleged surplus in the catastrophic care fund. In reality, by the time the checks were sent out, the fund was actually running a deficit.

“It’s absolutely critical that members of the public are on the board with voting power,” said Heller. “Otherwise the MCCA becomes a plaything of the insurance industry, serving their interests, not the interests of Michigan drivers.”

Heller said the bills could also provide important consumer information about the overall auto insurance industry in the state.

“We don’t really know, because way of MCCA has been structured, how profitable insurance companies are in the state,” Heller notes. “For decades, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has had to put an asterisk next to the state of Michigan in its data collection, to indicate that the profit data for Michigan’s auto insurance market is unreliable — because of the way things are reported through the MCCA.”

The MCCA – which does not list phone numbers or email addresses on its website – had a voice mailbox that was full when Michigan Public tried to reach it for comment.

The Insurance Alliance of Michigan, the lobbying arm for insurance companies in the state, said it was “analyzing” if the bills could impact the “solvency” of the auto insurance market in Michigan.

Heller called that a red herring. “There’s nothing to analyze,” he said, since the bills only address transparency into the workings of the MCCA, and do not address insurance revenues.

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