Vladimir Konstantinov traded hockey sticks for Uno. In fact, the former Soviet and Detroit Red Wings star player often plays that he experiences a pack a week, dropping cards with hands that have made him one of the best defenders of his generation.
On a recent visit to the Konstantinovs ’suburban Detroit condo, he easily defeated his longtime nurse, Pam Demanuel, and smiled. That’s the best he can get these days.
Ever since suffering severe brain damage when his drunk limo driver caused an accident while Konstantinov was celebrating his first consecutive Red Wings championship in the late 1990s, the former NHL team captain and the Red Army have had to build his life again. Now 55, she needs help walking, eating, drinking and brushing her teeth, and a caregiver stays awake while she sleeps in case she needs to go to the bathroom. Although he seemed to understand the questions, his answers were limited to a few words and not always easy to understand.
The following week, Konstantinov threatened to lose the 24 -hour care that kept him at home. Due to the high cost of care and changes in Michigan law, she may be transferred to a facility where restraints or medications will be needed to keep her safe.
Konstantinov is the standard-bearer for a difficult situation faced by approximately 18,000 Michigan residents who have suffered serious injuries related to traffic accidents and lost their unlimited state-funded lifelong medical care. each driver has to pay by law. A two-party change in law that helped Michigan have the highest car insurance rate in the country took effect last summer and left Konstantinov and thousands of others relying on it with the worst option.
Faced with the specter of losing 24/7 care, Konstantinov’s family sought help from the legislature and the public, launching an online crowdfunding campaign to help recoup their significant costs and give journalists a behind-the-scene view of their lives.
“This is the first time we’ve allowed people to see the battles he’s fighting every day,” his wife, Irina Konstantinov, told The Associated Press last month. Fans see him at a Red Wings game greeting people and they think he’s okay, but he’s not. “
Konstantinov was 30 years old and had just finished the championship season in which he was voted the NHL’s top defender when the accident, which occurred on June 13, 1997, ended his career and changed the course of his career. life forever. His friend and ally Slava Fetisov, another member of the popular Russian Red Wings quintet, was also in the limo but suffered no career -threatening injuries.
Konstantinov’s wife and daughter, Anastasia, tried to take care of him after he recovered from a two -month coma, but soon found out they needed continued professional help. After years of full-time professional care, therapy and a lot of determination, Konstantinov learned to walk and speak again.
But in a bid to cut top car insurance policies, the Michigan Legislature led by Republican and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2019 passed a law that went into effect in July that allows drivers to choose their level of injury protection and opt-in-which overrides the previous requirement that provided unlimited lifetime coverage. Among other changes, the new law also reduced reimbursements from state funds for health care providers who treat accident victims.
Although the law reduced car insurance premiums in Michigan and led the state to issue $ 400 per vehicle reimbursement in an election year, it left Konstantinov and others like him facing trouble. hope to lose the ongoing care they need. Reimbursements for some post-active services under the new law have been lowered to 55% of 2019 levels, which home care agencies say are not financially sustainable.
“We are incurring approximately US $ 200,000 in (losses) just for Vlad’s case,” said Theresa Ruedisueli, regional director of operations for Arcadia Home Care & Staffing, which provides care at Konstantinov’s home.
If the company can’t afford Konstantinov without losing more money, it plans to drop him as a customer on June 1st.
Anastasia Konstantinov launched a crowdfunding campaign three years ago to help pay for her father’s care, but it raised less than 10% of her $ 250,000 goal. The Red Wings and NHL Players ’Association are also researching ways to help maintain care in Konstantinov’s home.
“We are actively working with her and plan to host a fundraising event to help maintain her care and provide more resources to expand it in the future,” Red Wings said in a statement.
The NHLPA has contacted the family and is working to determine how to resolve the issue, according to spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon.
However, little if anything else affected by this change in law is known to Konstantinov in Michigan, and many also have difficulty finding money to maintain their home care 24 hours a day.
Some lawmakers said they did not intend the changes to be applied retroactively to crashes that occurred before the new law was signed. But their efforts to change it have stalled.
“I don’t believe the legislature intended home health care workers to experience this kind of reduction,” Rep. Phil Green of the Republican state, which sponsored a bill that would increase reimbursements for rehabilitation treatment and home care.
“The proposal is, ‘both on the health care side and the insurance side, we need a haircut.’ The truth is that for home health care as well as in rehabilitation facilities, it’s more of a scalp than a haircut. ”
But Michigan Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth, who supports the current law, pointed out in March that efforts to change the law during this year’s session have stalled, pointing to the cost savings it has brought. to drivers. He declined an interview request.
For Konstantinov, who met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, he seemed to know his quality of life was in danger.
“I love living here,” he said when The Associated Press visited his home.
“My house,” he replied.