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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Reauthorization of County Health Care Half-Cent Sales Tax Heads to June Ballot

Alameda Health System received $88 million
in tax revenue last year from Measure A. 
ELECTION 2014 | ALAMEDA COUNTY | Nearly every government agency seeking a ballot measure this election cycle characterizes its important in dire terms, but some come with a ring of truth. On Tuesday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the first step toward placing the renewal of Measure A, the county’s half-cent sales tax to fund health care services, on the June 3 ballot.

The original Measure A was approved by county voters in March 2004 with 71 percent of the vote, but expires in 2019. A 32-member Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended last month, citing positive polling results, to seek the reauthorization of the sales tax measure for another 15 years through 2034. In addition, the Board of Supervisors is seeking no substantive change to the original measure which brings additional revenue to the county’s health care system and helps some of the most disadvantaged county residents.

A second reading of the ordinance will heard next week, Feb. 18. The Board of Supervisors expects to receive a resolution on the measure March 7 and formally submit it to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters by the end of March. Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan says a public forum on the issue will also be held sometime in April.

“It’s tremendously important to the county in these time of health care reform to provide adequate and quality health care for all Alameda County residents,” Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said Tuesday morning in support of the measure.

Measure A is not the only important county tax measure to be put before voters this year. A second attempt at passing a transportation infrastructure sales tax in Alameda County is likely headed for the Nov. 4 ballot. A similar transportation tax measure narrowly failed in 2012.

Seventy-five percent of the sales tax revenues is allocated to Alameda Heath System, formerly Alameda County Medical Center, for operations. The remainder is allotted by the Board of Supervisors to community-based health care providers, various public health programs and partially offsets uncompensated emergency room costs, said Alex Briscoe, the director of the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency. Last year, the county received $121 million from Measure A, said Briscoe, the highest total since its passage a decade ago.

Polling conducted late last year showed the time is right to ask voters to renew Measure A, said Briscoe. Seventy percent of over 600 telephone respondents said they would support the tax. The results match a similar poll done in 2003, said Briscoe. Two-thirds approval is needed for passage. Democrats and independents supported the measure with over 70 percent support, while Republicans offered just 46 percent approval, yet comprise the smallest percentage of the electorate. “We believe the current voters support Measure A, so let’s go get it,” said Briscoe.

1 comments :

Measure A, in principle, definitely deserves to be reinstated. However, proceeds from the measure should be allocated proportionally according to the uncompensated care given by hospitals / providers in the County. Giving 75% to a health care system dominated by northern County interests short changes the health care needs of Southern and Eastern County residents who cannot make it to Highland and must rely on cash strapped entities such as St. Rose or San Leandro to get care. Parceling out proceeds from the measure equitably would give some of these other institutions some much needed breathing space.

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