Voters Extend Sales Tax to Fund Undocumented Immigrant Health Clinics

Voters in Alameda County in California approved the extension of a sales tax—Measure AA—for the purpose of funding health clinics for undocumented immigrants who can’t access state programs or the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.  For supporters of the measure, the tax is a necessity to accommodate the growing number of undocumented workers expected to tap into the state’s already-strained health clinics.

The extension of the 0.5 percent sales tax is projected to bring in $100 million annually for clinic funding from 2019 through to 2034. California’s undocumented population—around 2.6 million people— cost the state more than $600 million in 2012 for emergency room visits and other health-related services.

Efforts to pass measures to include undocumented immigrants in the state’s Medi-Cal program for poor residents stalled in the state senate. Reform on the federal level is also stalled.

For Alex Briscoe, Director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, the measure bypasses the state and federal immigration reform deadlock and addresses the humanitarian aspect of the issue. “Our elected officials, our constituents, and our health authority see healthcare as a basic human right, to be provided regardless of immigration status,” Briscoe said.

According to reports, many undocumented immigrants who used the health clinics in the past will now be eligible for other programs—either Obamacare on the federal level or Medi-Cal on the state level. Use of the other public programs, however, leaves a potential gap for clinic funding.

Passed by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, the measure was approved by voters earlier in June. Around 50,000 undocumented residents in Alameda County—which includes Berkley and Oakland east of San Francisco, us health care services in the area.

Measure AA was designed as succeed Measure A, which expires in 2019. Measure A was the original sales tax earmarked for health clinic funding that was passed by country residents in 2004. Measure AA achieved a greater margin of victory than Measure A.