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Californian county votes in health services measure for illegal immigrants

BERKELEY Calif. (Reuters) - Voters in California's Alameda County passed a measure on Tuesday that is expected to raise $100 million a year for health clinics for illegal immigrants, who are excluded from state programs and the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

On May 23 a measure to include illegal immigrants in the state's Medi-Cal program for the poor to residents who are undocumented stalled in the state senate, and immigration reform proposals have also stalled in U.S. Congress for the past year.

The measure extends a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund the clinics to 2034 from 2019.

"Our elected officials, our constituents, and our health authority see healthcare as a basic human right, to be provided regardless of immigration status," Alex Briscoe, Director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, said.

About 7 percent of California's population - 2.6 million people - are undocumented, and in 2012 the state spent more than $600 million on emergency room and other health-related services alone for people living in the state illegally.

Many of those who used the facilities in the past will now be eligible for insurance under Obamacare or the Medi-Cal program, leaving a potential funding gap for the clinics that are already struggling to meet the needs of patients expected to be increasingly those without documents or health insurance.

Alameda County, which includes the cities of Berkeley and Oakland east of San Francisco, funds health care services for about 50,000 undocumented residents at the clinics.

The measure passed by a nearly 3-to-1 margin with all precincts reporting results early on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Louise Ireland)

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