While the Legislature launches into its latest look into reducing auto insurance rates, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he will be asking the insurance industry to come up with “creative solutions” to entice uninsured drivers to come in compliance with the state law requiring drivers to carry insurance.

In Michigan, 19 percent of drivers are tooling around uninsured, the nation’s fourth-highest rate, according to Insurance Research Council. The country’s most insured state is Maine, where 4.5 percent of drivers are uninsured.

If the insurance industry is able to reduce rates for certain populations, possibly to those burdened by a bad credit rating, it may entice more customers to buy the product. Spreading risk reduces rates for everyone, he said.

“We have pockets of poor compliance that is really high,” Shirkey said. “If we don’t make that a key part of what good looks like, then we’ll have missed a tremendous opportunity.”

Shirkey’s thoughts come a day after Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) introduced SB 0001, legislation that, as written, is statements of intent on where Republicans see potentials for reform. House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) tapped Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) to chair a special committee on no-fault insurance reform in the House.

The Senate leader said he believes “People are understanding that we’re taking this serious. We have a bill sponsor that is fully engaged and a committee chair (Sen. Lana Theis) that is anxious to do what we can to reduce insurance costs in Michigan.”

“The fact of the matter is we can do all the changes to provide opportunities to reduce insurance costs to people, but one of the best things we can do is increase compliance because that helps reduce the costs for everyone,” he said.

Asked if that means getting police to crack down on more uninsured drivers, Shirkey said, “I’m not suggesting we put this burden on law enforcement. We should try the carrot approach first.

“I’m fully intending to challenge everyone involved in this debate to use their maximum creativity to come up with solutions before we default to the stick.”

The “stick” could mean reaching out of the Secretary of State’s office and seeing what type of changes may need to be made to the overall system so police know whether someone is insured or not.

The idea comes amid concerns from Democrats about “redlining” tactics used by the insurance companies to provide discounts for drivers who don’t trigger various risk factors that are seemingly unrelated to a person’s driving record—poor credit, problematic zip code, etc.

But instead of banning rating factors for an entire industry when they are accepted elsewhere, Shirkey said he wanted to look at the issue through a different filter.

On the legislative front, the heart of the failed debate over no-fault car insurance reform is whether drivers can opt out of the mandatory unlimited catastrophic injury insurance.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s failed effort last year gave motorists lower coverage at a lower cost, but that drew strong opposition from the likes of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patternson and others who argue the savings could be wiped out if motorists with limited coverage have a catastrophic accident as Patterson did.

Shirkey is “very serious” about reforming the system, but when asked if he favored choice in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, he and his Democratic counterpart, would not go there.

Shirkey is making no comment on that until the issue is fleshed out by Nesbitt and Theis’ committee. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich concurred. He said the renewed debate should commence with a “blank page,” which means choice cannot be ruled in or out at this early point in the talks.

Lansing Lines is a cooperative feature presented by MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service and Healthcare Michigan.