Orange County Studies Jail Fines for Trauma Care
Orange County supervisors on Tuesday supported a proposal by supervisor John Moorlach to impose a tax on undocumented immigrants held in county jails and use the revenue to subsidize hospital emergency departments, the Orange County Register reports. The proposal comes as county supervisors consider strategies to provide $3.5 million for hospital emergency departments in the county as advocated by the Hospital Association of Southern California (Santana Jr., Orange County Register, 2/7).
Orange County in December opted to provide $1.75 million from the county general fund for additional funds for emergency department care over the next six months, rather than increase traffic fines. A state law approved in 2006 permits counties to increase base fines for driving violations by 20% to fund:
- Fees for physicians who provide ED care;
- Pediatric and adult trauma care; and
- Other emergency medical services.
In support of his plan, Moorlach cited studies that show a connection between higher ED usage and undocumented immigrants. He said, "Why don't you penalize people that are closer to the problem?"
Moorlach's proposal will consider fining undocumented immigrants in county and Costa Mesa jails. He estimated that a fine of $250 to $400 per undocumented immigrant inmate would generate sufficient revenue for the subsidy.
Peter Zamora -- acting regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund -- said the proposal "potentially raises a host of legal and constitutional concerns, not least of which is that only the federal government can generally regulate in the field of immigration" (Orange County Register, 2/7). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.