If not for the incomprehensible veto of Assembly Bill 600 by Gov. George Deukmejian, hundreds of thousands of Californians could have been looking forward to using their own resources to buy health insurance as a protection from the financial disaster of a major hospitalization.
AB 600, authored by Assemblyman Alister McAlister (D-Fremont), was mainly designed to make health insurance available, at premiums calculated by actuaries, to people who now cannot get coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition or some other physical problem. It offered similar protection to persons who are self-employed or between jobs.
AB 600 was passed by the Legislature on votes of 65 to 14 in the Assembly and 38 to 0 in the Senate. The bill had a broad spectrum of support, including the insurance industry, major health insurance carriers, physician and hospital groups, labor, agencies representing persons with chronic illnesses and physical disabilities, and The Times, as well as numerous other newspapers.
This nonpartisan bill would have allowed people to use their own funds to maintain their financial independence and avoid dependence on tax-supported medical care programs. The legislative analyst and even the state Department of Finance predicted that the bill's insurance program would produce "potentially major annual cost savings" due to a reduction in Medi-Cal recipients.