Publication Looks at Californias Health Care Safety Net

November 3, 2010 – The October issue of California Health Care Almanac, published by the California Health Care Foundation, is a report on California’s health care safety net.

Authored by Trisha McMahon and Matthew Newman of Blue Sky Consulting Group, the report “provides a snapshot of California’s health care safety net on the eve of what will likely be a decade of fundamental transformation.” The “facts and figures” report defines that safety net as “the intersection of three loosely coordinated, continuously evolving components: public health care programs, health care providers and the population of low income uninsured with unmet medical needs.” The report defines the safety net population currently as Californians with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • The health care safety net is composed of numerous programs that vary widely in their eligibility criteria and services covered.
  • In 2007, 30% of Californians were part of the safety net population; among this group, 37% were uninsured, 53% were enrolled in Medi-Cal, and 10% were enrolled in Healthy Families or another public program. (Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. Healthy Families is low cost insurance for children and teens.) The authors assume that the numbers have changed since the start of the recession.
  • Safety-net providers rely on Medi-Cal funding, although county contributions and government grants are also important.
  • In general, the safety-net population receives less in the way of health care services than the non-safety-net population and is more likely to lack a usual source of care, to delay needed care and to be hospitalized for an avoidable cause.


The authors also point out that the 2010 health care reform legislation “will have a large impact on the safety net. Access to Medi-Cal and subsidized insurance coverage will be increased, which will affect how this population uses the health care system, with ramifications for both patients and providers. County indigent programs in particular may find their role changing in the future as the size of the medically indigent population decreases.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded by clicking here.

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