Vladimir Konstantinov traded hockey sticks for the Uno. The former Soviet and star player for the Detroit Red Wings plays so often that he spends a pack a week, wearing down the cards with the hands that made him one of the best. defenders of his generation.
During a recent visit to the Konstantinovs’ suburban Detroit condo, he easily defeated his nurse of many years, Pam Demanuel, and smiled. That’s the best you can get these days.
Since suffering severe brain damage when his drunken limousine driver caused an accident while Konstantinov was celebrating the first of back-to-back Red Wings championships in the late 1990s, the former NHL and Red Army team captain had to rebuild his life. Now 55, he needs help walking, eating, drinking, and brushing his teeth, and a caregiver stays awake while he sleeps in case he needs to go to the bathroom. Although he seems to understand the questions, his answers are limited to a few words and are not always easy to understand.
Next week, Konstantinov risks losing the 24-hour care that kept him at home. Due to high costs of care and changes in a Michigan law, he could be moved to a facility where restrictions or medication would be needed to keep him safe.
Konstantinov is the standard-bearer for a difficult situation facing approximately 18,000 Michigan residents who suffered serious traffic-related injuries and lost their unlimited state-funded lifetime medical care that every driver was required by law to pay for. A bipartisan change to the law that had helped Michigan have the highest auto insurance rates in the nation went into effect last summer, leaving Konstantinov and the thousands who depend on her with the worst options.
Faced with the specter of losing 24/7 care, Konstantinov’s family asked the legislature and the public for help, launching an online crowdfunding campaign to help offset their significant expenses and providing journalists a behind-the-scenes look at their lives.
“This is the first time we let people see the battles he fights every day,” his wife, Irina Konstantinov, told The Associated Press earlier this month. Fans see him at a Red Wings game waving at people and think he must be cool, but he’s not.”
Konstantinov was 30 years old and had just finished a championship season in which he was voted the NHL’s best defenseman when the accident, which occurred on June 13, 1997, ended his career and changed the course of his life forever. His friend and teammate Slava Fetisov, another member of Russia’s famed Red Wings quintet, was also in the limo, but he suffered no career-threatening injuries.
Konstantinov’s wife and daughter, Anastasia, tried to care for him after he came out of a two-month coma, but soon found that they needed constant professional help. After years of 24-hour professional care, therapy, and a lot of determination, Konstantinov learned to walk and talk again.
But seeking to cut major auto insurance policies, the Republican-led Michigan Legislature and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer passed a law in 2019 that took effect last July and allows drivers to choose their level of protection against injuries and choose to participate, repealing the previous requirement. which provided unlimited coverage for life. Among other changes, the new law also reduced reimbursements from the state fund for health care providers who treat accident victims.
Although the law somewhat lowered Michigan auto insurance premiums and prompted the state to issue rebates of $400 per vehicle in an election year, it left Konstantinov and others like him facing the possibility of losing the constant care they need. Reimbursements for some post-active services under the new law have been reduced to 55% of 2019 levels, which home care agencies say is financially unsustainable.
“We’re incurring about $200,000 in (losses) just from the Vlad case,” said Theresa Ruedisueli, regional director of operations for Arcadia Home Care & Staffing, which provides home care for Konstantinov.
If the company can’t deal with Konstantinov without losing more money, it plans to drop him as a client on June 1.
Anastasia Konstantinov launched a crowdfunding campaign three years ago to help pay for her father’s care, but it raised less than 10% of its $250,000 goal. The Red Wings and the NHL Players Association are also exploring ways to help maintain Konstantinov’s home care.
“We are actively working with him and plan to host a fundraising event to help maintain his care and provide more resources to extend it in the future,” Red Wings said in a statement.
The NHLPA has been in contact with the family and is working to determine how to resolve the issue, according to spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon.
Yet few if any others affected by this law change have Konstantinov’s notoriety in Michigan, and many are also struggling to find the money to maintain their 24-hour in-home care.
Some lawmakers have said they never intended the revisions to apply retroactively to accidents that occurred before the new law was signed. But his efforts to amend it have stalled.
“I don’t think the legislature intended for home health care workers to experience this kind of reduction,” said Republican state Rep. Phil Green, who sponsored a bill that would increase reimbursements for home care and rehabilitation treatment.
“The pitch was, ‘On both the health care and insurance side, we needed a haircut.’ The reality is that for both home health care and rehab facilities, it was more about a scalp than a haircut.”
But Michigan Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth, who backed the current law, noted in March that efforts to change the law during this year’s session had stalled, noting the savings it brought to drivers. . He declined an interview request.
As for Konstantinov, who met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, he seems well aware that his quality of life is in jeopardy.
“I love living here,” he said when The Associated Press visited his home.
“My house,” he replied.
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