Passing auto insurance reform now can avoid needless complications later


Behind the scenes, some House Democrats have considered withholding their support for the state budget until the majority votes on reforming the state’s auto insurance law to assist victims of catastrophic crashes.  

Multiple sources have confirmed a split in the Democratic caucus over whether the sole focus should be on taking the safe votes needed in an election year to help retain the majority or whether more policy reform votes are needed to bolster the Democrats’ political case.  

The differences of opinions have resulted in at least one long closed-door caucus, and they come as the House prepares to take votes on next year's spending plan.  

Several Democrats are anxious about taking up a partial rollback of the 2019 no-fault auto insurance reform RIGHT NOW. 

Every day that goes by is another one these critically injured survivors — many of whom are quadriplegic or have limited mobility — are needlessly suffering because the network of care has deteriorated.  

They can see what’s coming down the pike: 

1. The budget sucks up all the oxygen in the room for the rest of May.   

2. The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Policy Conference after Memorial Day 

3. A mad rush to work out a House and Senate budget compromise by June 27 

4. Summer break

5.A light September: a get-back-together mop-up session 

6. Fall campaigning 

7. Election 

8. Lame duck madness 

9. The end of the year: Republicans back in charge? 

Where would there be time to help the catastrophically injured if not right now? Put up the Senate bills for a vote. According to the Michigan HomeCare and Hospice Association, the votes are there to pass it on the House floor. Why wait? 

If it was only that easy.  

House Speaker Joe Tate and House Majority Leader Abraham Aiyash are from Detroit. Aiyash said he pays $3,500 a year ($291.67 a month) for his auto insurance. Tate and his constituents probably pay something similar. 

So, if auto insurance is returned to the table, their top priority is giving their constituents some legitimate rate relief. The 2019 auto insurance reform didn’t do it. 

Nearly five years since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill, Detroit-area residents still pay twice the premium costs as other Michigan drivers.  

Aiyash mentioned a policy that bans setting rates based on geography and credit score. Insurance companies warn that this would spread costs to the suburbs, which could rub other Democratic members’ constituents the wrong way and chase away otherwise supportive Republicans. 

Suddenly, a quick fix or an easy vote becomes more complicated. 

Increasing reimbursement rates for auto accident survivors means higher auto insurance rates. It’s a hard pill to swallow for a population already paying some of the nation’s highest rates.  

Why? According to the state insurance regulators, Michigan remains the only state that offers unlimited benefits to accident victims. 

For years, Democrats pointed the fingers at the big, bad insurance companies. They were allegedly getting fat on Michigan consumers. Whitmer’s insurance regulators hired actuaries for the first time to flyspeck every auto insurance rate filing.  

The upshot? The rates were all “reasonably justified.” 

Meanwhile, as the Democratic-led House is heading into an election year, the majority would prefer not to pass legislation that Republicans could claim would raise Michigan’s already high auto insurance rates even more. 

How do you raise reimbursement levels for the catastrophically injured while lowering our auto insurance rates? 

If Democrats withholding their support on the budget for an auto insurance reform vote can thread that needle, they’ll have accomplished something many, many, many legislators have tried and failed to do: They will have successfully made the case for why Democrats deserve to be in the majority for another two-year term. 

Until then, the 56 Democrats will need to hold hands and pass a budget so leadership doesn’t have to give away its priorities in order to pass a budget with Republican support. 

Now, that’s something all Democrats can agree they don’t want to do. 

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at 


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