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California's Safety-Net Clinics: A Primer

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Publication Date: November 2005

Publisher(s): California HealthCare Foundation

Author(s): Elizabeth C. Saviano; Margie Powers

Topic: Health (Health services for the uninsured)

Type: Report

Coverage: California


Providing essential health care services to vulnerable populations, regardless of patients' ability to pay, is an indispensable component of any health system. In California, though, there is no formal "safety net" for the millions of underinsured and underserved. A network of clinics and providers, both public and private, works closely with communities to offer a spectrum of critical services. This report focuses on the outpatient clinic portion of California's safety net and clarifies how this complex network operates. It identifies the various players and provides a framework for understanding their similarities and differences, including their funding streams and organizational structures. Beyond direct service providers, the state's network also includes 14 clinic consortia, geographically linked clinic coalitions that play a critical role in strengthening the safety net. These consortia offer a high level of support and expertise in areas including information technology, quality improvement, and public policy advocacy. With safety-net providers facing a wide range of challenges -- from budget cuts to a growing number of uninsured patients -- continued and increasing levels of community support will become invaluable as they work to fulfill their missions.