New no-fault auto law could have devastating consequences for Grand Rapids family

GRAND RAPIDS, me. – The family of a man with severe brain trauma will face a haunting reality once the state’s new no-fault auto insurance laws go into effect on July 1st.

Aaron Russo, now 40, has been given 24-hour home care since he was seriously injured in a car accident in 1994. With the new law, his family could potentially lose the caregivers he has long relied on.

Michigan Senate Bill 0001, which was signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer back in May 2019, contains a new fee schedule that will drastically change the amount of money insurance companies cover for home care for people in catastrophic car accidents.

“We’re horrified. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Like I said, we can’t do it ourselves,” said Renee Westbrook, Armon’s mother, to FOX 17 on Monday morning.

Renee currently has approximately five caregivers who have split up their time to look after Aaron. The nurses are supported and paid by Health Care Associates of Grandville. Health Care Associates will then be reimbursed through the family’s insurance company.

Under the new law, Aaron’s family can still be technically looked after around the clock, but the insurance companies only reimburse around 45% of their previous benefits. That means Health Care Associates either have to pay less than half of their previous wages or suffer a huge financial loss.

In reality, this will likely mean that the family has no access to quality carers or no caregivers at all.

“Because of his accident, his brain cannot control his body temperature and it can be very low or very high. It needs constant monitoring,” explained Aaron’s mother.

“He can harm himself, and if he can, he needs to be monitored. We monitor his breathing at night and he cannot feed himself during the day.”

Larry Treece, president of Health Care Associates, says Michigan currently has around 18,000 people covered by no-fault auto insurance.

There are two bills in Michigan law that attempt to address these looming issues with the upcoming new law – Senate Law 314 and House Law 4486.

Health Care Associates has an additional 25 employees in similar situations to Aaron. Treece is confident that lawmakers will work swiftly to address the scenario devastating to thousands of families across the state.

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