By Jessica Mathews /

Upcoming changes to Michigan’s auto insurance system that go into effect next week were discussed during a recent virtual event hosted by a local lawmaker.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer earlier signed historic bi-partisan auto no-fault legislation to lower costs for Michigan drivers, maintain the highest coverage options in the country, and strengthen consumer protections. The changes apply to policies issued or renewed after July 1st. Drivers’ premiums will depend on the coverages they choose and factors related to their personal situation.

Republican State Representative Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville held his virtual in-district office hours recently, which featured fellow State Representative Jason Wentworth who chairs the Select Committee on Reducing Car Insurance Rates. He said their only focus was to reduce rates for drivers in Michigan and address out of control costs in the system because people were demanding changes and sick of paying the highest rates in the country. He pointed to a U of M study that showed 97% of all Michigan zip codes had car insurance rates deemed unaffordable because citizens were paying more of their income on insurance. Wentworth said that created a system in which many people were driving uninsured because they simply can’t afford it.

Wentworth said come July 2nd, drivers will get a choice in Personal Injury Protection or PIP coverage – something they haven’t had since the 1970’s. He said people can continue to keep unlimited PIP coverage if they’re able to afford it, which is the best coverage in the country and Michigan is the only state that has it. Wentworth said it does take some work on behalf of drivers but even if they keep the same coverage, they should still see a savings. Wentworth says if people haven’t already been contacted by their agent or if they have and their insurance didn’t change very much, he encourages them to shop around because there is now market disruption and competition that has not been seen in the last 50 years. He encouraged people to talk with agents and ask questions because every scenario is different.

Wentworth said the reforms include mandatory rate rollbacks from May of last year and insurance companies are now prohibited from using discriminating factors. He says those include non-driving factors such as marital status, home ownership, education level, occupation, sex, zip codes and credit scores – all things companies would use to base rates on and they can no longer do that. He said also incorporated was a lot of fraud prevention and controls and increased penalties for those who commit fraud whether its agents, drivers, trial attorneys, agencies, hospitals, long term care facilities.

Wentworth advises the public to visit the Committee’s website, which serves as a user-friendly platform for Michigan drivers who are looking to familiarize themselves with the new law set to roll out. He says it has been updated to better prepare drivers for the upcoming changes to the state’s no-fault system. It features the available personal injury protection (PIP) coverage levels and a guide for each option drivers may utilize to familiarize themselves with the forms they will be expected to fill out in the coming weeks. How-to guides also detail the steps drivers will need to take to choose a coverage option that best meets their budget needs. Wentworth noted the Department of Insurance and Financial Services is also available to help with specific consumer questions by calling 833-ASK-DIFS.