Governor Working To Fix High Car Insurance Rates

Michigan's unique no fault law, which covers medical benefits for an unlimited amount, has drivers upset about the costs they have to pay for their monthly premiums.

"Well it's tough, you know, everybody's trying to make ends meet and more money in your car insurance definitely doesn't help," said Jordan Leaming, a driver in Lansing. "It definitely hurts to pay extra just because you live in a specific region."

According to Insure.com Michigan drivers pay $575 more per year for auto insurance than the national average. They pay $1,124 more than Maine, where car insurance is the lowest in the country. That's an i-pad, a new computer, or a trip to New York that every driver in Michigan could have had if they didn't need to put the money toward car insurance.

"We need to reduce the cost of auto insurance it's hurting our economy," said Kevin Clinton, the Commissioner of the Office of Insurance and Financial Regulation.

The high numbers are getting the attention of Governor Snyder.

"It's time for some reforms folks," said Governor Snyder addressing auto insurance in his State of the State address. "We far exceed every other state in how expensive our claims are. The average claim in Michigan is $44,000. The next two states are $17,000 and $10,000 dollars."

Those claims are paid out by every driver on the road. The same insurance in Ohio would run about $900 less each year, according to Insure.com.

The number of accidents in Michigan is not causing the problem. Michigan is actually at a ten year low, with about 30 percent fewer accidents than in 2002.

The Governor wants thoughtful reform to the state's no fault law medical pay-outs as well as insurance fraud.

"But I would say we are not going to stop at those two," said Governor Snyder. "I want to look at the whole question of auto insurance to see where we can be more proactive, particularly when you have cities--Detroit is number one on the most expensive list, Novi is number six, and I think Muskegon is number nine. That's not a good set of circumstances."

To look for a solution to the high costs of insurance the Governor signed an executive order creating the Department of Insurance and Financial Services.

Kevin Clinton said he has to wait about 55 days or so till he is approved to be the new director of that department.

"I think we have a real problem. We have probably 20 percent of the state that is uninsured right now, and that percent is even larger in the big cities," said Clinton. "Michigan has the highest benefits in the nation. We have unlimited medical benefits for the rest of your life. The next closest state in terms of a no fault state is New York, they require $50,000."

The Michigan Insurance Coalition says one cost of no fault----the fee paid per vehicle to the MCCA---is up tremendously. It was about $6 per vehicle in 1998. That fee paid by every driver per vehicle per year is now $175.

Insurance fraud is another issue.

"You know fraud is estimated to be upwards of almost 10 percent of the premium volume. In Michigan that can equate to almost 400 million dollars," said Peter Kuhnmuench, the Executive Director of the Insurance Institute of Michigan. "We save because we don't have to sue for benefits because you are self-insured and you collect from your own insurer, and it's a good system fundamentally. Unfortunately in Michigan it's designed without sufficient costs restraints to keep it healthy."

Some drivers are also frustrated with high vehicle registration fees. According to the Federal Highway Administration, Michigan is 9th in the country for the most expensive vehicle registration fees. The average cost is $58 per vehicle, but range from $29 to $211.

"If the legislature can move quickly I am sure we could have this done let's say within 9 months. So anytime [people] renew after let's say mid-September they could start to see some savings," said Clinton.


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