New auto insurance law forces seriously injured people to fight for increasingly scarce care

The first thing you notice about Jake Veeder is his horrific injuries. The second thing you notice is her absolutely murderous smile, the one that lights up her whole face.

Her mother is Tricia Smith. She has the same smile.

Smith looks way too young to be the mother of 23-year-old Veeder. People confuse the two with brother and sister, or worse, girlfriend and boyfriend, all the time.

“I hate it,” Veeder said, with just a little hint of that murderous smile.

I met mother and son, as well as Melanie Olson, Veeder’s medical case manager, outside his new home, Maple Manor in Novi. Veeder has difficulty speaking due to a brain injury, so I asked Smith to tell me what happened to him.

Like virtually everyone with a story about a catastrophic car crash, it started out the same way. With the date.

“It was November 17, 2018,” Smith said. “He was a passenger in a vehicle that lost control, and they ended up pulling off the road. The car overturned and Jake was stuck inside for about 40 minutes. He was on fire, so a lot of his wounds came from him. burning. “

Smith said no one thought this was going to happen to them – suddenly going from a normal life to a nightmare. His injuries were extensive. Closed head trauma, burns over 40% of his body, a broken orbital bone, a dissected carotid artery. The list goes on.

Veeder was 20 years old at the time of the accident. Like everyone else in Michigan in 2018, he had lifelong medical care on his auto insurance policy. The cost of her care was mind-boggling. There are three months in the severe burns unit of the hospital …

“His bill at Hurley alone was $ 2.98 million,” Smith said.

Next, a transfer to Mary Free Bed, a pediatric rehabilitation hospital. Then a transfer to Origami Rehabilitation, a full residential rehabilitation center.

“The last time I checked we were just over ten million,” she said. She glances at her son in a way that somehow combines humor, heartache, and affection. “Yeah, he’s the ten million dollar man.”

Melanie Olson is Veeder’s medical case manager. Case managers help people with complex medical conditions get the care they need.

Olson said Origami offers one-on-one care, a brain injury rehabilitation program and geared equipment to become more independent. A social life.

“He was doing phenomenal things at Origami, at Lansing, right, Jake? He was making so much progress,” she said.

But in July 2021, insurance companies started paying providers less than their actual costs. The new law allows them to do so. Veeder’s insurance company, Progressive, told Olson he needed to find somewhere cheaper.

Origami offered to cut costs. Veeder said he would give up his help. Smith, Veeder’s mother, even offered to pay for his food. Olson said the Progressive Agent agreed to contact the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to seek reimbursement above the law’s restrictive limit.

The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association has the final say when costs exceed $ 600,000. According to Olson, MCCA said no. He should go.

Suddenly Olson had to find another place that could handle his medical condition. She called one establishment after another, after another.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” Olson said. “I don’t know where – where we’re going to put him. No one would take him. And I said, ‘I think we’re going to have to go to the hospital.'”

At the last minute, just before they planned to take him to the emergency room, Maple Manor, a trained nursing home, agreed to accept him as a resident. Olson and Veeder’s mother, Tricia Smith, are extremely grateful. He is receiving excellent medical care, they say. But there’s no brain injury rehabilitation program here, no one-on-one aids, no high-tech devices, no residents his age. Instead, he watches TV a lot.

“This situation really depressed me,” he said.

At least he’s found a safe place. For hundreds more, this may not happen.

Here’s how quickly it comes undone. As I was putting the finishing touches on Jake Veeder’s story, I got a call from the owner of a group home for car crash survivors. She urgently needed to temporarily move one of her residents with a head injury to a safer, larger staffed facility after attacking another resident. He needed someone with him at all times, stabilized and to have his meds re-evaluated.

No one would take it because they knew the insurance company would not pay for his care.

So he went to prison, then to the hospital. He’s been in the emergency room for over a week, waiting for help.

About Marjorie C. Hudson

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