Michigan Drivers Have Until Year-End to Take Advantage of Auto Insurance Amnesty

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined state and community leaders on Tuesday in encouraging all Michigan residents to sign up for auto insurance before the amnesty period expires and rates rise.

Source: Detroit News | Published on December 1, 2021

Auto insurance costs

One provision of Michigan's historic auto no-fault reform legislation, which went into effect in July 2020, was to grant previously uninsured drivers amnesty, which meant they could obtain insurance without penalty or increased premiums.

The 18-month amnesty period will end on January 1, 2022.

Uninsured drivers have until December 31 to obtain coverage or face higher rates and penalties if they are involved in an accident.

In the last two years, more than 100,000 previously uninsured people have obtained coverage, according to Duggan.

"The single most important reason for passing this legislation was for those people of moderate-to-low income who were driving uninsured and putting themselves in danger every day," Duggan said during a press conference at Detroit's Public Safety Headquarters. "If you haven't had car insurance in a while, you may be at a higher risk, and the insurance company may charge you a higher rate than other drivers when you go to buy it."

"If you get it before December 31, there's a good chance your rate will be lower than if you wait," he adds.

According to Anita Fox, director of Michigan's Department of Insurance and Financial Services, now is a critical time for residents across the state to get insured because doing so protects them.

"The last thing you want is to be in an accident and not have medical coverage for your family," she explained. "If you wait and get into an accident, you may end up putting your family, finances, and health at risk due to a lack of coverage."

According to Fox, 60,000 of the 100,000 new drivers were previously uninsured for three or more years.

"We had the greatest benefits in the country, but we also had the highest costs, and with the highest costs, we had a disproportionate number of uninsured drivers, putting all of us at risk," Fox explained. "Do it right now. Contact an insurance agent, a company, go online, or call 833-ASK-DIFS if you need assistance navigating the system."

In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation to repeal the state's one-of-a-kind requirement that motorists purchase policies that provide uncapped lifetime medical benefits in the event of catastrophic crash injuries.

Instead, insurers can sell reduced coverage policies and are required to reduce medical premiums by 10% to 100% for eight years, depending on the level of coverage a driver chooses.

The plan established a tiered fee schedule for medical providers, limiting the amounts they can charge auto insurers for motorist care.

The law prohibits insurers from basing rates on ZIP codes, but they can use "territory" as a factor in setting rates based on specific geographic designations. The plan also prohibits insurers from taking into account non-driving factors such as gender, marital status, and credit score.

Duggan had joined Whitmer and other legislative leaders in advocating for the law change, which is intended to provide relief for residents of Detroit, where average annual costs exceed $5,000.

The Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the NAACP in Detroit, said the civil rights organization has fought high insurance costs imposed on Detroiters for years, with a disproportionate impact on African Americans and people of color.

"We should not be charged high insurance rates because of where we live, but rather because of how we drive," Anthony said. "Attempts have been made to address this problem. The bipartisan auto insurance law signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019 is a big step in the right direction, but it's not everything we wanted and it's not everything we need right now."

Nearly 60% of Detroiters drive without insurance, but it's not because they don't want insurance, but because they can't afford it, according to Anthony.

"Many people have had to make the difficult decision to drive recklessly and hope for the best. There is a more responsible, accountable, and equitable method of encouraging the process "He stated. "We urge Detroiters and everyone to fully participate in the amnesty program and avoid the financial penalties that will be imposed at the end of December 31."

Duggan hosted a virtual town hall meeting last summer ahead of the auto reform law's effective date of July 2, 2020, providing a line-by-line virtual tutorial on how to save money.

At the time, the mayor laid out the options and requirements for opting out of Personal Injury Protection, which pays for medical bills if you are injured in an accident, as well as the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association for catastrophic crashes.

Last year, Detroit sent documentation to its 8,000 employees to assist them if they chose to opt out.

Until recently, drivers were required to purchase both, even if they had health insurance.

Krysten Jones, a 35-year-old Detroit resident, said she used to pay $550 a month for insurance despite having a clean driving record, and because the rate was so high, she was willing to take the risks of driving uninsured.

"When I first learned about the new law, I was ecstatic because it allowed me to obtain affordable auto insurance without incurring any fees or penalties. When the new law went into effect at midnight, I purchased a new policy, and my monthly premium dropped by nearly $400 "During the press conference, Jones stated. "I was recently in an accident, and if I hadn't had this, I wouldn't have had the coverage, which I appreciate."