One of Michigan’s precious jewels is currently in danger of being stolen. In 1973 Michigan legislators, in a stroke of genius, created the most comprehensive system of protection in the nation for people injured in car crashes. The no-fault personal injury protection law mandated that auto insurance companies pay for all needed rehabilitation and care for life and without limits. Michigan is the only state in the nation that provides this level of coverage.
Our Michigan system is currently under attack by some politicians, insurance companies and newspapers. They say our system is too expensive and needs to be limited. They want to limit how much and the quality of care you receive, and how much doctors can be paid to provide that care.
As a trauma psychologist for the past 30 years, I have treated hundreds of auto crash victims and know that in some serious injuries care costs can exceed a million dollars and will require life-long care.
Meet my patient Steve who suffers from PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, depression, panic attacks and chronic pain from severe back injuries that required three surgeries. His accident was 20 years ago and he is no longer able to work. His three times a week therapy helps him to remain stable enough so he can live at home with family members and does not require a residential treatment facility that would cost seven times as much. Due to our current no-fault law many patients with severe spinal injuries are able to receive ongoing care in quality facilities that offer exceptional services that promotes maximum functioning. Without Michigan’s current system, they would likely languish, warehoused in nursing homes.
The cure for protecting our auto accident personal injury protection system is not to put limits on care or quality. The cure is to focus on prevention.
The insured motorists of Michigan need to demand the elected representatives maintain their injury protection system. Instead of focusing on the cost of cure, they need to focus on issues of prevention.
Most accidents are caused by things that could be prevented: Speeding, impaired driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, fatigue, distraction from cell phones and texting, crumbling road infrastructure, and faulty car and road design are factors we as a society can control through education, training, design, maintenance, and sanctions.
If our politicians turn today to these issues, we will prevent future accident care costs.
As Benjamin Franklin said in 1736 when addressing fire prevention in Philadelphia, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” His famous idiom means the cost of preventing accidents is much less than the cost of curing the damage which applies perfectly to the situation we now confront with auto accidents. Thomas Fuller’s 1732 proverbial expression, “A stitch in time saves nine” also needs to be kept in mind with thinking about accident related costs. A little effort to repair a small problem, will prevent having to cure a much larger problem in the future. Small problems mean small costs, big problems mean big costs. The cost of accident prevention programs would likely be one tenth or one hundredth the cost of repairing the damage, and when it comes to human injuries, pain, suffering and loss, some damages cannot be repaired.
Currently in America we have over 40,000 people killed each year on our roads, and over 4 million injured. To put this in perspective, the number now killed each year in America is about the same number killed in combat in Vietnam over a 20-year period. The current yearly economic costs of accidents are estimated as over half a trillion dollars.
It is time to fight to preserve Michigan’s auto no-fault system, the best America has created, which mandates the insurance funding necessary to care for those injured in car accidents. Write your elected representatives and newspapers and demand the focus turn to preventing accidents and preserving the quality of care for those who are currently injured.
Let’s cure the problem by prevention.