On February 9, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a Published Opinion that restricts certain reimbursements for chiropractic care under the no-fault act. The case is Measel v Auto Club Ins Co. The basic facts are that Ms. Measal was injured (neck, upper back and arm) in a motor vehicle crash. As part of her medical treatment, she received ultrasound therapy (neck and upper back) and massage therapy (arm) from a chiropractor’s office. AAA of Michigan refused to pay for the care arguing that neither modality of service was reimbursable under the no-fault act; this lawsuit followed. Per MCL 500.3107b(b), chiropractic care is reimbursable provided the nature and extent of the services provided “was included in the definition of practice of chiropractic under” MCL 333.16401, as of January 1, 2009. In short and analyzing the definitions of the statute, on their own plain terms, the Court of Appeals concluded that, generally, ultrasound therapy and massage therapy “fell within the current definition of ‘practice of chiropractic’ under MCL 333.16401” and therefore, held “each of these services is ‘[a] practice of chiropractic service’ for purposes of MCL 500.3107b(b).” But that holding was not the end of the Court’s review and analysis. It then considered AAA’s alternative argument that because an assistant and not the actual chiropractor provided the service, the care was rendered unlawfully and thus, excluded from no-fault reimbursement, regardless. Turning to the Public Health Code and its definition of “supervision” under MCL 333.16215 , the Court concluded further that the care was lawfully rendered under the supervision of the chiropractor and thus, not barred under the no-fault act. But that holding, also, was not the end of the Court’s review and analysis. Finally, the Court turned to the testimony and records of the chiropractor who stated/documented that when performing the ultrasound and massage therapy on Ms. Measal, her entire neck and upper back and “‘whole arm ‘” were treated. While ultrasound and massage therapy are, generally , reimbursable under the no-fault act, in this case, they were deemed not reimbursable because, as the Court of Appeals reasoned, “they involved treatment to areas other than Measel’s spine.” The Court reached its conclusion by relying on an old case, Hoffman v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, 211 Mich App 55 (1995), which basically held that chiropractic care was limited to treating the “spine” only. Because Ms. Measal received ultrasound and massage therapy to not only her spine, but to her connective tissues and “whole arm”, the Court concluded that the chiropractor rendered care beyond the spine and thus, outside the definition “‘practice of chiropractic’ under MCL 333.16401.” (And “Yes,” you read that correctly in case you are scratching your head right now.). The resulting consequence of this opinion is that even though Ms. Measal faithfully paid auto insurance premiums for the rare chance she may get hurt in an auto accident and require medical care, her own insurer turned against her and fought to deny payment and actually succeeded leaving Ms. Measal personally liable and in debt for the chiropractic expenses. (And “Yes,” you read that correctly, too, in case you are scratching your head again right now.).
Authored by L. Page Graves
A native of Lansing, Michigan, Page Graves now helps members of the same community who need legal help with Michigan No-Fault Automobile Insurance Law, representing medical service providers and severely injured people in collecting unpaid and underpaid no-fault benefits. A partner with Smith & Johnson in Traverse City, Mr. Graves has been repeatedly included in the annual Best Lawyers since 2012.