California’s Safety-Net Clinics: A Primer

Elizabeth Saviano


This is archived content, for historical reference only.

California’s health care “safety net” consists of an array of providers delivering a broad range of health care services to medically underserved and uninsured populations, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. This safety net includes public hospitals and health systems, health care districts, community health centers and clinics, and for-profit and nonprofit health care organizations that provide free or discounted care.

This primer, which updates a report published by the California HealthCare Foundation in November 2005, focuses on the outpatient clinic component of the safety net. Such clinics include licensed primary care clinics, clinics operated by governmental entities such as counties and cities, and clinics run by federally recognized Indian tribes or tribal organizations. Understanding the complex functions, structures, and operational environments of these clinics is critical to appreciating the overall nature and extent of California’s health care safety net.

The primer includes discussion and analysis of:

  • The characteristics of various categories of safety-net clinics
  • The demographics of those served by safety-net clinics
  • Key reimbursement and funding mechanisms
  • Some of the challenges faced by these clinics in the current operational environment

It also provides a guide to resources and organizations that support safety-net clinics in California.

The primer is available under Document Downloads.