In 2020, back pain isn’t just something that we experience as we social distance and sit on our couches watching a Tigers game instead of going to Comerica Park. It’s also one of the most common complaints that no-fault insurers see following an automobile accident. For years, the no-fault act has excluded certain chiropractic services from compensation as no-fault benefits. But a recently enacted law, House Bill 4449 (2020 PA 104), changes the compensability of ancillary chiropractic services—including the use of imaging technologies beyond x-rays—beginning July 2, 2021.
The bill, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law on July 1, 2020, amends MCL 500.3107b. Currently, that statute exempts no-fault insurers from paying for chiropractic services that are not within the definition of “practice of chiropractic” under MCL 333.16401 that existed on January 1, 2009 (i.e., the statutory definition that was in effect from 1978 through January 4, 2010). Cases applying that definition have held that certain measures, such as ultrasounds and heat/cold packs, are outside the January 1, 2009 definition and, therefore, are not compensable as no-fault benefits.
The new law eliminates the limitation based on the January 1, 2009 definition. MCL 500.3107b now states that “[r]eimbursement or coverage for expenses within personal protection insurance coverage under section 3107 is not required for any of the following: … A practice of chiropractic service rendered before July 2, 2021, unless that service was included in the definition of practice of chiropractic under section 16401 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.16401, as of January 1, 2009.” (Emphasis added.) Thus, beginning July 2, 2021, no-fault insurers will face expanded liability for chiropractic services.
Going forward, the reasonable-necessity defense may still apply, especially in a case where different treaters order multiple imaging studies on the same area of the body. Likewise, no-fault claimants remain subject to the other limitations imposed by the no-fault act. But HB 4449 removes one of the primary tools traditionally used to preclude recovery for certain types of chiropractic services. So, no-fault insurers and their attorneys should become prepared to handle claims for all types of chiropractic services in the future.