He was one of the most punishing and devastatingly effective defenseman in the National Hockey League, and was truly coming into his own at the time of the historic 1997 Stanley Cup victory. He was also an astounding plus-60 during Detroit's record-setting 1995-96 season, and his massive body checks put fear into the hearts of opponents.
But his career ended and his life was changed forever less than a week after the ultimate triumph when he was critically injured along with team trainer Sergei Mnatsakanov in a limousine accident. Konstantinov suffered serious head injuries and paralysis
And thanks to a new law that has cut reimbursement for care of the catastrophically injured by nearly 50%, there are those who now worry for Konstantinov's long-term survival.
"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, Konstantinov's attorney.
"I don’t think he is going to survive. That’s how strongly I feel."
In 2019 lawmakers passed legislation to lower insurance rates. It was a large bill. One provision slashed reimbursement for care of the catastrophically injured - like Konstantinov 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 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 Vladimir 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 be a violation of federal Medicaid regulations. We hope that this can be addressed urgently as we, and many other providers in the state, cannot sustain no/or dramatically reduced payment,” the statement went on to say.
"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.