Legislation would require MI Catastrophic Claims Asso. to release documents at public’s request

LANSING, Mich. — Today Sen. Steve Bieda (D–Warren) introduced legislation that would require the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCAA) to abide by the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act. The bills, Senate Bills 240 and 241, are intended to create more transparency and accountability in our state.

“The public’s distrust for government is at an all time high and their skepticism continues to build because there always seems to be something hidden in the shadows,” Sen. Bieda said. “Citizens don’t have access to the transparency they need in order to validate certain claims, leading to those responsible never being truly held accountable, and it’s time to change that.”

The MCCA was created by the Michigan Legislature in 1978 to reimburse auto insurance companies for claims over $545,000. Each year, they release an assessment that outlines the state’s expected costs of covering lifetime benefits for people who were injured in serious automobile accidents.

This year, Michigan motorists will be paying a grand total of $170 per vehicle to cover the costs of catastrophic claims after the MCCA requested a $10 increase to balance the budget, without providing data to back up their claims.

Recently, controversy has consumed the MCCA — after discrepancies were found between the worth of the organization’s financial claims and independent assets — and they refused to publicly release their calculation method for what drivers are expected to pay into the catastrophic claims system, even after lawmakers’ requests for them to do so.

“If the current deficit claims by the MCCA and insurance agencies are true, then they should have no problem with opening their books for public inspection to prove their request for additional funding,” Sen. Bieda said. “However, if they are reluctant to openness and transparency, we should be very concerned.”

Senate Bill 240 subjects the MCAA to the Freedom of Information Act, and would instruct the association to release documents at the public’s request — which would help to clear up their financial discrepancies controversy.

Senate Bill 241 would add the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to the list of entities statutorily required to follow the Open Meetings Act. If passed, the MCCA would have to frequently hold public meetings where citizens can express their opinions, and keep detailed notes on those meetings.

“Unfortunately, Michigan continues to rank last in transparency and government accountability,” Sen. Bieda said. “This legislation will go a long way toward restoring and preserving the public’s trust.”