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Governor OKs Insurance Aid to Catastrophic Illness Victims

October 02, 1989|RICHARD C. PADDOCK and JERRY GILLAM | Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — People who suffer from AIDS, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses will be able to purchase health insurance for the first time through a state-subsidized program under legislation signed Sunday by Gov. George Deukmejian.

After years of vetoing similar bills, the governor approved a compromise catastrophic health insurance program that will rely on tobacco tax revenues to aid as many as 300,000 uninsured Californians who suffer from such long-term illnesses.

Deukmejian's approval of the health care bill came as he took action on dozens of bills, including signing a measure that will impose a tough new drunk driving standard on truck drivers and commercial boat operators by reducing the legal blood alcohol level from .10% to .04%.

DMV Release of Addresses

And in the hope of preventing another murder like that of actress Rebecca Schaeffer in July, the governor signed a bill restricting the release of home addresses by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

He also signed legislation to help finance construction of an Olympic athlete training center in southern San Diego County. It will be financed by a loan from the state and repaid through the sale of commemorative Olympic license plates for $100 per pair.

But once again, the governor vetoed legislation that would have required all students in grades 7-12 to receive AIDS prevention instruction unless their parents specifically object to it.

"Our schools are aware of the importance of this instruction and are responding appropriately to the challenge without the additional programs and mandated costs that this bill would create," the governor said in his veto message.

The Republican governor's decision to sign the catastrophic health insurance bill came after years of wrangling over who should pay the cost of caring for devastating illnesses such as AIDS and cancer that can bankrupt patients who do not have health insurance.

This year, Assemblyman Phillip Isenberg (D-Sacramento) was able to negotiate a compromise by proposing that the state pay for the program with an estimated $30 million in interest on revenues from Proposition 99, the tobacco tax increase approved by voters last year.

At the same time, the bill provides for fewer benefits than those contained in measures vetoed by the governor in previous years.

Rejected Advice

In signing the Isenberg bill, Deukmejian rejected the urgings of some of his own health and finance advisers, who had opposed the measure.

There are an estimated 244,000 to 300,000 Californians who are unable to purchase health insurance because they have such conditions as cancer, heart disease, AIDS, diabetes, lupus or epilepsy.

But the number of them able to purchase the state-subsidized insurance could be limited by the high premiums, estimated to range from $1,300 to $3,500 a year when the program gets under way in 1991.

Deukmejian's approval of stricter standards for drinking by truck drivers comes just two weeks after he signed a measure reducing the drunk driving standard for all motor vehicle operators from .10% to .08%.

The latest measure by Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim) would impose the .04% standard on all commercial vehicle drivers, including boat and ship operators.

The law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 1992, will bring California in line with federal standards and prevent the state from losing as much as $86 million a year in highway funds after 1995.

Seymour said a stricter drunk driving standard should apply to truck drivers and commercial boat operators because of the potential danger they pose to the public.

"There is a great difference between the skill it takes to drive an automobile and carrying 40 tons of steel in a tractor-trailer," he said.

The legislation restricting access to motor vehicle records was prompted by the discovery that Robert John Bardo, the suspected killer of actress Rebecca Schaeffer, obtained her home address from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Under the bill by Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles), people who wish to keep their home address confidential may do so by submitting an alternative address, such as a post office box or place of work, which could be released.

The bill had the emotional backing of Schaeffer's parents and actors and actresses who have been stalked by unwelcome fans.

Deukmejian earlier issued an executive order requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to delay the release of personal information for 10 days while officials notify the person whose records are being sought.

The governor's office also announced that Deukmejian:

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