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Assembly Bill on AIDS Testing

June 29, 1988

I was dismayed by the editorial "AIDS and the Legislature" (June 22) opposing Assembly Bill 2900, a measure I authored regarding AIDS HIV antibody testing for individually written health insurance.

Your editorial failed to note that my bill will apply only to individually underwritten policies offered after Jan. 1, 1989, and not to those issued to groups. This is an important point for two reasons.

First, most people get their health insurance through their employment and most of those plans are group plans that are not individually underwritten. If an insurer does not now test people for other pre-existing conditions, my bill will not allow them to do so. My bill applies only in those limited cases where insurers do test people before selling them health insurance.

Second, my bill is prospective. No one who now has insurance will need to worry that they will be tested and their insurance cancelled because they have AIDS. Therefore, you were wrong to charge that my bill will "invite the health insurance companies to dump thousands of people from their rolls."

Your editorial fails to note that California is the only state that prohibits using the most accurate tests now available to test for AIDS. Thus, while under current law, health insurers can test for diabetes, cancer, heart conditions and other conditions affecting an insurance applicant's risk; insurers cannot do so for AIDS.

But the state law you characterized as "carefully constructed" does not prevent insurers from using the T-cell test, which, although it can provide evidence that someone has AIDS, can also give a positive result for someone who has recently suffered from other blood disorders, such as mononucleosis.

People with more acceptable risks pay the price when insurers cannot use reasonable means to make underwriting decisions. This is unfair to those who buy insurance. Further, can you explain why those who test positive for AIDS should be treated differently from those who have other pre-existing conditions that make them uninsurable?

You also worried that efforts would be made to take out the linkage of my bill with the catastrophic health-care bill, Assembly Bill 600. That measure would provide health insurance for those who are uninsurable in the private market. But I have clearly stated that I will not move my bill to the governor unless linkage to catastrophic health insurance is maintained.

PATRICK JOHNSTON

Assemblyman, 26th District

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