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Brain Injury Association of Michigan Outlines the Current State of Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury population, both military and civilian, is on the

rise Proposed change to Auto No Fault Insurance threatens brain injury continuum

of care

BRIGHTON, Mich., June 24 /PRNewswire/ -- The number of Michigan residents living with traumatic brain injury (TBI) is growing, according to the second annual report from the Michigan Department of Community Health's (MDCH) Traumatic Brain Injury Services and Prevention Council. Non-fatal hospitalized TBI cases in the state increased 19 percent, from 8,612 to 10,220 per year, between 1999 and 2005, while the number of TBI fatalities decreased about 2 percent. According to the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) the following issues could have a profound impact on Michigan taxpayers, the number of Michigan residents who sustain a brain injury, and the cost and availability of care and rehabilitation.

Public Cost of TBI

The current cost of TBI treatment in Michigan for Medicaid Fee For Service (FFS) patients - averages 19.7 million dollars annually, according to a report by the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) and the MDCH. This cost is a significant underestimate because it does not include the more than half of all Medicaid recipients who are in managed care plans. This cost covers only a small portion of the 200,000 Michigan residents that are living with a TBI, as estimated by the Centers for Disease Control. It does not reflect the costs of patients whose TBIs were sustained auto crashes. Auto crash-related TBIs account for 32.4 percent of non-fatal hospitalized TBI cases in Michigan and treatment for those injuries is currently covered by Michigan's Auto No Fault insurance law.

Michigan Auto No Fault Insurance

The viability of Auto No Fault insurance in the state of Michigan is being threatened. Change to the unlimited coverage of Auto No Fault will mean decreased availability to rehabilitation for TBI survivors and decreased opportunity for TBI survivors to receive the care necessary to return to work. The cost of their long-term care will instead shift to Michigan taxpayers. One such proposed change to Auto No Fault, House Bill 1278, limits the driver's amount of personal injury protection, which covers the cost of medical care and rehabilitation, in exchange for a nominal reduction in insurance premiums. BIAMI is greatly concerned about this legislation for the following reasons:

-- Michigan drivers most likely to choose this limited coverage, in order to obtain a less costly insurance premium, are also those most likely to sustain a TBI in an auto crash - high school and college-aged males. In other words, those who will most likely need unlimited coverage for a lifetime of care are those most likely not to choose it.

-- The cost of a lifetime of care for a serious TBI far exceeds the lower coverage levels offered by the bill. Lifetime coverage is necessary to provide a TBI survivor with the established TBI continuum of rehabilitative care needed for optimal quality of life and the opportunity to return to work post-injury.

-- Bill 1278 would effectively allow insurance companies to limit their expenses through lower coverage obligations and pass the long-term care costs on to Michigan taxpayers.

Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Law

A looming threat that will increase the number of TBIs in Michigan is the legislature's attempt to repeal the Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Law. Current Michigan law requires all motorcyclists to wear a crash helmet while operating a motorcycle. Proposed legislation, House Bill 4749, would allow licensed motorcyclists over the age of 21 with two years experience and a minimum of $20,000 in insurance to ride their motorcycle without a helmet.

Governor Granholm vetoed this bill on June 13. It is crucial to Michigan residents and the family members of motorcyclists that the Michigan legislature does not override this veto. It has been proven that the number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes drastically increases when helmets are not required. Florida repealed its helmet law in 2000. According to an August 2005 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, non-fatal head injury hospitalizations in Florida increased a staggering 80 percent in the 30 months directly following the law change.

The proposed $20,000 in required insurance does not even adequately cover the immediate medical cost of a TBI-related hospitalization, let alone the necessary and oftentimes life-long care needed for a TBI patient. The increased cost of care that will undoubtedly accompany the increased incidence of brain injury will fall on the Michigan taxpayer.

Traumatic Brain Injury in Military Veterans

TBI has become widely recognized in recent years due to the staggering numbers of brain injuries sustained by military service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. TBI is known as the signature injury of these wars and the BIAMI is directly addressing this issue in collaboration with the MDCH's TBI Council through the BIAMI Veterans Program.

The three major goals of this program are raising TBI awareness among veterans and their families, facilitating a working relationship with Michigan Department of Military Affairs with the goal of establishing a public/private partnership, and reaching out to private TBI health-care providers for the treatment of returning veterans. Accomplishments to date include the distribution of educational brochures, pre- and post-deployment briefings to military members and families about TBI, and enhancing the TBI support available to veterans.

State of Michigan TBI Grant Project

The Michigan Department of Community Health administers $200,000 annually for the TBI Grant Project - $100,000 from the State of Michigan and $100,000 from the Health Research and Services Administration-Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The MDCH's TBI Services and Prevention Council, chaired by Michael Dabbs, president of the BIAMI, offers guidance and expertise to the Project, providing recommendations for the use of funding. With the TBI Council's support and guidance, the TBI Grant Project is making great strides in Michigan:

-- The data collection efforts will assist the legislature and state agencies to determine how to more appropriately and cost effectively address the needs of Michigan residents who sustain a TBI.

-- Outreach and support to veterans is being increased.

-- Support and education are being provided to schools and community groups regarding youth sports concussion.

-- The Project actively supports legislation requiring children between four and eight years of age to be restrained in a booster seat while riding in a motor vehicle.

The state of brain injury in Michigan is one of steady progress in the face of incredible odds. The BIAMI and MDCH's TBI Council are fighting diligently to provide the best rehabilitation environment possible to the rising population of TBI survivors, both military and civilian, and to maintain Michigan's superior continuum of care against what can only be described as relentless opposition.

"As that continuum of care is being threatened," said Michael Dabbs, "our level of dedication to the brain injury community we serve here in Michigan has never been greater."

About the Brain Injury Association of Michigan

The Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) was founded in 1981 by family members, persons with brain injury and persons in the brain injury profession. At the time, brain injuries were largely misunderstood and services for those affected were hard to find. In the years since its inception, much progress has been made in treating brain injuries, and the BIAMI has expanded its focus to include prevention programs. The mission of the BIAMI is to enhance the lives of those affected by brain injury through education, advocacy, research and local support groups and to reduce the incidence of brain injury through prevention.

SOURCE Brain Injury Association of Michigan
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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