DETROIT — He was one of the best defensemen in the NHL. They called him the “Vladiator.” Vladimir Konstantinov’s aggressive plays helped the Detroit Red Wings win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years in 1997.
“This cup is the cup for you guys. Thank you,” he said as he stood with his team on the ice.
Six days later, the limousine he was riding in as he celebrated the win crashed in Birmingham.
Konstantinov and team masseur Sergei Mnatsakonov suffered life-changing injuries.
Konstantinov went from lifting a Stanley Cup above his head to in a coma for two long months, facing death.
“We hope and pray that our teammate Vlady and Natsa will recover and things will go well,” said Steve Yzerman, Red Wings Team Captain at the time, during a press conference at the hospital.
“I was with Vlady when he was in Beaumont in a coma. I saw him say his first words after the coma. I saw him do his first physical therapy after the coma. And to see him then and to see him now is a miracle,” said Jim Bellanca, Vlady’s friend and attorney.
“He is incredible,” said Linda Krumm, Konstantinov’s Medical Case Manager, who has cared for him since shortly after his injury.
Krumm coordinates caregivers who help him eat, dress, and get out in the community. He needs around-the-clock care due to the impact of his traumatic brain injury.
Konstantinov’s care team has defended his privacy, not allowing news crews into his Oakland County apartment over the years, despite requests for interviews, but now something has changed.
“I don’t think he is going to survive. That’s how strongly I feel,” said Bellanca.
In 2019 lawmakers passed legislation to lower insurance rates.
It was a hefty bill.
One provision slashed reimbursement for care of the catastrophically injured - like Konstantinov's, by 45%.
It went into effect on July 1.
That means that under state statute, money paid from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association for things like physical therapy, attendant care, nursing care, and medical supplies is being cut by 45%.
“Currently, we have not been paid for any claims billed after the implementation of the changes. We have changed the codes under which the claims are billed and are waiting to see what reimbursement rate we are paid. In addition to the delays in payment, we are fearful we will be paid at a rate that will not sustain our business,” said Darby Anderson, Executive Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer of Arcadia Home Care, the company that provides 24-hour attendant care for Konstantinov in a statement.
She says cutting the amount paid to 55% of previous rates will likely force the company to cut caregiver wages to approximately minimum wage.
“This rate equates to barely more than the Michigan minimum wage rate, which will not cover taxes, benefits, and administrative costs to operate the business. This rate is also significantly less than rates paid by state Medicaid, which may violate federal Medicaid regulations. We hope that this can be addressed urgently as we, and many other providers in the state, can sustain no/or dramatically reduced payment,” the statement went on to say.
“His care is 24 hours a day. It isn’t just a random amount. His physical medicine and rehab doctor prescribe it,” said Krumm.
“He has a very small amount of money,” said Bellanca, explaining that Konstantinov cannot afford to pay to make up for the potential loss in coverage.
The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Fund is something every insured Michigan driver paid into for years.
It provides care for about eighteen thousand people who suffered devastating injuries. Its recent statement from June 2020 shows it has $23.4 billion and liabilities of approximately $21 billion to be paid out over future years.
Fund managers tell WXYZ the amount of money in the fund has grown over the last year, thanks to investments.
“And the thought that they are going to deprive thousands of people of the care they have built their lives on and been successful on, to me as a human being, as an attorney, now retired from active practice. It’s abominable. The money is there,” said Bellanca.
So what will happen to the billions of dollars drivers paid over the years if it is not spent helping people with catastrophic injuries?
Tucked inside the no-fault reform bill passed by the Republican State House and Senate and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a law ordering the state to rebate money to insurers if it grows to exceed 120% of liabilities.
It says the rebate to insurers will be returned to drivers as an insurance discount.
“I find it hard to believe they are going to give it back to us and, frankly, I don’t want it if it means people like Vlady are no longer going to get the care they need to survived,” said Bellanca.
Krumm says Konstantinov may not be able to continue living in his home due to the law. He has lived in a nursing and rehabilitation home before, and that brings up concerns.
“He was difficult to control. He was lashing out. Vlady is a strong-willed person. You could see that on the ice,” said Bellanca.
“What will happen to him? Will he end up in a nursing home? Will he end up warehoused somewhere instead of thriving and living a wonderful life being healthy?” asked Krumm.
“He is losing his humanity, and there is no excuse for it,” said Bellanca.
There are some bills proposed to undo the 45% cut. One of them is House Bill 4486, introduced by State Representative Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township).
2021-HIB-4486 by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd
If you have an opinion on what you want to see happen, reach out to your representatives and the governor’s office.
Kim Russell at WXYZ first reported this story.