A Michigan senator who introduced a vehicle bill in January for comprehensive no-fault auto insurance reform said his fact-finding conversations with other lawmakers and an array of stakeholders are ongoing and making progress, but he has not yet put pen to paper with any concrete proposals ahead of initial committee hearings.
Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) introduced SB 1 in January, a piece of intent legislation that will be filled out in the coming months.
He described the process as it relates to efforts among lawmakers as “there just seems like there’s a lot more of an aura” around the realization that the public is demanding a solution now where previous efforts have failed to provide relief to the pocketbooks of motorists.
“I just talked to an insurance agent last night. He’s had customers about on their knees in tears when he gives them a quote,” Nesbitt said, stressing to point out the growing strain it can have on motorists’ budgets.
Nesbitt said that so far, his daily schedule has been packed, with numerous meetings with other lawmakers, constituents in his district and officials with various stakeholders. He has also had productive meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), who chairs the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee that SB 1 was referred to, about auto insurance.
“(But) I haven’t put the pen to paper yet,” Nesbitt said when asked if any specific plans have been decided on yet.
When asked when the fact-finding stage may be over and the first committee hearing may be scheduled for testimony, Nesbitt said “I’ll let you know,” saying he planned on talking to Theis Feb. 1 or early the following week on when the committee may be meeting.
No committee meetings for the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee had yet been scheduled as of Jan. 25.
Theis agreed with Nesbitt that things seem, at least early on, to be different this time around.
“We need to make sure we’re listening to all the interest groups. We’re trying to make sure we’re listening to everyone,” Theis said, noting that a concerted effort to speak to all stakeholders is a major difference to past efforts where some stakeholders have felt their views were not being considered.
As introduced, SB 1 is a four-page, multi-section piece of legislation that will be filled in as priorities are identified.
One goal outlined in the intent language is for persons ages 62 and older with lifetime health care benefits to have the option of not carrying personal injury protection insurance.
Other goals include allowing individuals to choose their level of personal injury protection coverage while also allowing for lower premium rates, lowering the cost inflation for no-fault auto insurance claims compared to other health care treatment and reducing fraud.
Nesbitt added he has been studying auto insurance legislation from the last several years to see where other bills failed and search for items that had support that could be part of SB 1.
Theis said conversations have been going well and she will be informed by Nesbitt when any initial version of a bill is ready to come before the committee.
She added there is no timetable as to when the bill might come before the committee nor how many meetings may be required before it is reported.
Theis said she too has heard from constituents who are struggling with managing auto insurance costs with their monthly budgets. She said that most recently, she heard from an elderly constituent who gave up having a car because the individual did not want to drive without insurance, the choice being between having a vehicle and being able to get necessary medications.
Pressure will continue to build on lawmakers to craft a solution, she said, as more people of all levels of income increasingly struggle with what she called a broken system.
Michigan has often been cited as having the highest auto insurance rates in the country. The topic was one that lawmakers of all political stripes heard about throughout the state during last year’s election as a top priority.
The House for its part has formed a special committee to craft its own solution to no-fault auto insurance. No timetable has been set for that committee, either.
During the 2017--18 session, a major overhaul that would have created a three-tiered system of health coverage for those injured in an automobile crash, rather than rely on unlimited health coverage that is currently required, narrowly failed in the House.
Smaller, piecemeal efforts toward auto insurance changes were also introduced and failed last session.