Whitmer to veto Michigan car insurance bill: 'I'm done playing games'

Governor demands bi-partisan effort from Senate, House

A promising push to lower Michigan's out-of-control auto insurance rates already has hit a roadblock.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is threatening to veto the bill, saying there are no guarantees costs will go down for drivers.

"I am only going to sign a bill that protects drivers and these bills do not do that," said Whitmer.

The governor wants a bi-partisan effort from both the House and the Senate.

"If they are serious about getting this done, then negotiations should commence. If they want to play politics, I've already told you what's going to happen," she said.

It was 2 a.m. Thursday when the House passed its version of the auto insurance reform bill, which differs from the Senate version.

Here's how the Senate and House versions differ:

  • The Senate version looks to close the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association. That's the lifetime time unlimited disability coverage. The House does not.
  • For personal injury protection, The House went with five choices starting at $50,000 and going up to unlimited. The Senate wants just two: $50,000 and $250,000.
  • Both say yes to opting out of coverage with qualified healthcare insurance, which includes Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Both use the worker's comp fee schedules for treating injuries.         
  • Only the House bill bans non-driving factors like ZIP code or credit score in deciding costs

"I'm done playing games. The people of our state expect real solutions that nurture their benefit, in terms of lower cost, and these bills don't do that. And I'm not here to dress windows," said Whitmer.

House members said they are willing to work through the weekend to try to get something done.

READ MORE: Is Senate's auto insurance reform a breakthrough in push to lower rates in Michigan?

Michigan residents driving legally right now have an insurance plan with the mandated lifetime medical benefit, but what went through the Michigan Senate on Tuesday could change everything.

Here are some big takeaways:

  • Drivers would now have a choice of PIP levels, or none at all.
  • Hospitals would no longer be able to charge what they see fit for medical care of auto accident victims.They would be forced to follow the workers' compensation fee schedule.
  • It would require the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund to be transparent about how much money it has and would create an auto insurance task force to be run by Michigan State Police.

Also included in the bill is language that would prevent insurers from basing rates on gender and refusing service to some ZIP codes.

The bill made it out of the Senate with Republican and some Detroit Democrat votes.

Read more here.

House version

The Republican-led Michigan House early Thursday approved a plan to reduce the state’s high auto insurance premiums, moving to no longer require that drivers buy unlimited medical benefits through their car insurer to cover crash injuries.

The House bill — which passed 61-49 on a largely party-line vote after 2 a.m. — would let motorists forego mandatory unlimited personal injury protection, a requirement only in Michigan. Insurers would have to cut PIP rates, for five years, by between 10% and 100%, depending on the coverage chosen. That could equal an estimated $120 and $1,200 in savings for someone paying $2,400 annually per car, assuming the PIP fee accounts for half their bill, according to Republicans’ projections.

A recent study showed that Michigan’s estimated annual premium of $2,610 is highest in the country and almost double the national average.

“It affects the people who live in every one of our communities. We have been overpaying for decades, and people are demanding a change,” said Rep. Jason Wentworth, a Clare Republican.

Read more here.

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