Changes on Horizon for California Safety Net’s Care of Undocumented, Indigent

At hundreds of safety-net hospitals and community clinics, momentous changes are unfolding as the health reform law takes effect.

The safety net faces a flood of new patients, as an estimated 1.4 million low-income Californians will become eligible for Medi-Cal, and an additional five million are expected to qualify for coverage through Covered California. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program, and Covered California is its health insurance exchange.

That influx of new patients has ignited concerns for safety-net providers in Los Angeles and the Central Valley, regions that have some of the state's largest undocumented populations.

Directors of clinic networks and health policy experts in these areas said a couple things are clear: Doctor shortages will be exacerbated with thousands of new residents seeking health insurance and, come Jan. 1, clinics will be better positioned to provide preventive and more coordinated care.

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