Forward Focus: Auto insurance anguish


    FILE- According to Insure.com, for the fifth straight year Michigan has the highest auto insurance rates in the country. (WWMT/MGN Online)

    Michigan holds a title, but it is not one anyone is bragging about. According to Insure.com, for the fifth straight year Michigan has the highest auto insurance rates in the country. It is a key factor as to why experts estimate one out of every five Michigan drivers choose to drive without insurance.

    Newschannel 3 created a Facebook post about Michigan's high car insurance prices and several responded, openly admitting that they break the law and drive without insurance because they cannot afford the prices.

    Dennis Wiley of Battle Creek said he does not drive without insurance, but sometimes chooses not to drive.

    "It impacts my life greatly, you cannot go anywhere," Wiley said, "and there is nothing wrong with the car sitting in the garage."

    "It impacts my life greatly, you cannot go anywhere and there is nothing wrong with the car sitting in the garage." - Dennis Wiley

    Wiley's wife work; she uses one vehicle. Often the family chooses to not insure their second car. When we caught up with Wiley at his home, he told us it was his first time driving the car in weeks. That is because he had just added insurance, so he can get his daughter to track practice. However, the extra $90 a month is not something the family can afford year round.

    "I think it is price gouging," Wiley said.

    Often, people blame Michigan's no-fault system for the high prices, but other states also use no-fault insurance.

    Tricia Kinley, executive director of Insurance Alliance of Michigan, said the issue is more specific.

    "Michigan unlike any other state has an unlimited benefit system," Kinley said.

    The system does not put a cap on medical benefits. Kinley said drivers need to have more say in the type of coverage they want to buy.

    "Consumers have absolutely no choice in what they think is the right medical benefit to fit their auto insurance needs," Kinley said. "Forty-nine other states have figured out how to make their auto insurance system work, while still making sure people who are in traumatic car crashes get the care they need."

    "49 other states have figured out how to make their auto insurance system work, while still making sure people who are in traumatic car crashes get the care they need." - Tricia Kinley.

    It is not hard to find someone upset with Michigan's auto insurance prices, but there are people afraid of changing the system.

    "How do you put a price on your child," asked Cathy Spicer. Her son Nate has a traumatic brain injury after being injured in a crash in 2011. We talked with Spicer during one of her son's physical therapy sessions in Schoolcraft. She estimates his monthly care costs about $50,000, adding up to about $600,000 a year, something she could never afford on her own. Spicer said she fears her son would die if not for the physical therapy he now receives three days a week.

    Cathy Spicer's son Nate has a traumatic brain injury, after being injured in a crash in 2011. (WWMT)

    "I would love to see the premium's lowered, but when it comes to catastrophic claims there has to be a way to adjust it," Spicer said.

    The question state leaders are now debating is: Can the system be changed to help drivers like Dennis Wiley afford car insurance, without hurting someone like Cathy Spicer who has a son in need of daily medical care because of a car crash? Workers at Insurance Alliance of Michigan believe that can happen and are optimistic about a change to the system since Michigan's new governor and the leaders of the House and Senate all say auto insurance is a top priority.

    "The costs really are out of control, and drivers are demanding reform," Kinley said.

    "The costs really are out of control, and drivers are demanding reform." - Tricia Kinley.

    Changing Michigan's auto insurance system has been discussed for years, and it has yet to change. Will this time be different? Newschannel 3's Mikenzie Frost will address the politics behind getting something passed in her Auto Insurance report on March 28.

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