GROSSE POINTE, Michigan (WXYZ) — Ellen Andary from East Lansing is one of about 18,000 survivors of catastrophic car crashes that has lost care coverage since auto no-fault reforms went into effect last year. She sued, saying it violated her rights. This week the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled two to one in her case, that the law as written can not retroactively take care away from crash survivors.
It could be a major win for crash survivors across the state, including Red Wings Great Vladimir Konstantinov. He went from celebrating a 1997 Stanley Cup Win to fighting for survival, his life changed in an instant when a limo crashed.
He suffered a traumatic brain injury, but had care covered by the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association. Then in 2019, lawmakers voted for auto no-fault reform, stipulating that reimbursements for caregivers and other services would be cut by 45%. The cuts went into effect as the entire nation was hit with inflation.
“The shortfall for Vlady, with the application of the new law is $17,000 to $18,000 a month,” said Jim Bellanca, Vlady’s attorney and friend.
Bellanca says Konstantinov does not have savings to fund that. Donations are helping, but are not a sustainable solution for Konstantinov, he says.
“None of the 18,000 crash survivors should have to beg for money to live,” said Bellanca.
Arcadia Home Care and Staffing provides care for Konstantinov and has been lobbying for a change. It says it has accumulated $2.5 million in debt due to the change.
“$2.5 million dollars is a lot to carry, but we are hopeful that these efforts will continue and our advocacy will be rewarded and we will get some of that back from the insurance companies,” said Theresa Ruedisueli, Arcadia Home Care Regional Director of Operations.
Ruedisueli says the company had to discharge 15 of its 30 patients impacted, who could not help cover the loss. Some now are being cared for by friends and family.
When the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that new cost controls in no fault reform shouldn’t be applied retroactively, she felt hope they would be able return for professional care.
“This affirms all of the advocacy work we have been doing to try to change this. The court agrees with us,” said Ruedisueli.
The fund that provides care for those with catastrophic injuries is fully funded, but when there is a surplus, money is sent to insured drivers across Michigan.
Some lawmakers who passed the reforms warn the cuts in care aimed to save you money. The Insurance Alliance of Michigan said the medical fee cuts for crash survivors result in savings for insurance company customers.
Bellanca warns that savings comes with a cost for people like Vlady.
“I personally believe he will deteriorate and he will die,” said Bellanca.
To put it in hockey terms, the game isn’t over with this court ruling. The next period is expected to be played before the Supreme Court.