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Community Health Center

Also referred to as a “community clinic,” the term community health center (CHC) describes one of California’s more than 200 state-licensed community, free, and tribal health centers, which operate at more than 900 sites statewide. CHCs provide health services to more than 4.7 million of California’s most vulnerable patients each year, the majority of whom are low-income, enrolled in public health coverage, or are uninsured. CHCs patch together diverse revenue streams from Medi-Cal, foundations, individual donors, and other federal, state, and local sources in order to cover services that are not reimbursed by public or private insurers. To be eligible for Foundation funding, CHCs must meet the following criteria:

  • Be licensed by the State of California as a primary care community health center, free clinic, or a designated tribal health center;
  • Be a non-profit corporation, or be tribally sanctioned;
  • Be freestanding health centers that are not county-operated, hospital-based, or part of a larger healthcare system;
  • Of their services, more than 60 percent must be primary care, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

Community Health Center Consortia

A regional association of two or more community health centers. Consortia represent community health centers at the local level and provide a regional clinic voice. In California, these twenty non-profit organizations vary in scope of services and work, but are united in providing healthcare access for all underserved and low-income patients. There are 20 regional consortia throughout California:

  • Alameda Health Consortium/Community Health Center Network
  • Alliance for Rural Community Health (ARCH)
  • California Consortium for Urban Indian Health, Inc.
  • California Family Health Council
  • California Rural Indian Health Board
  • Capital Community Health Network
  • Central Coast Health Network
  • Central Valley Health Network (CVHN)
  • Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics
  • Community Clinic Association of L.A. County (CCALAC)
  • Community Clinic Consortium of Contra Costa and Solano Counties
  • Community Health Partnership (CHP)
  • Council of Community Clinics
  • Health Alliance of Northern California (HANC)
  • North Coast Clinics Network
  • Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California
  • Redwood Community Health Coalition
  • San Bernardino County Consortium
  • San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium
  • Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers

Health Benefit Exchange

This is an independent public entity within the state government that will create a competitive marketplace for consumers to choose the health plan and providers that give them the best value. State exchanges will be set up voluntarily, or by the federal government for states that do not create their own. On January 1, 2014 the exchange will start offering coverage for individuals and small employers with incomes between 133 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Small employers with less than 50 employees may also purchase coverage through the exchange. California has already established its Exchange.

Healthcare Safety Net

Safety net healthcare providers are organizations or entities that have a high proportion of patients covered by Medi-Cal or other programs targeted to low-income Californians, or who are uninsured/self-pay patients. California’s healthcare safety net includes, but is not limited to, community health centers, county hospital and ambulatory care systems, and private providers.

Healthy Families

California's version of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, Healthy Families provides health, dental, and vision coverage for low-income children, teens, and pregnant women. As a result of changes in state law, California will transition all Healthy Family enrollees to Medi-Cal in 2013. Learn more »

Low Income Health Programs

Programs under California’s Section 1115 Medicaid Waiver that allow counties to provide coverage for the approximately 500,000 low-income childless adults statewide who are not otherwise eligible for Medi-Cal. Low Income Health Programs (LIHPs) cover individuals with incomes up to 200 percent of Federal Poverty Level (about $22,000 per year) until January 1, 2014, when coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act are fully implemented. As of August 2012, more than 480,000 Californians have been enrolled in Low Income Health Programs in 50 of the state's 58 counties. Learn more about LIHPs »


California’s version of Medicaid, a federal-state insurance program for low-income residents. The program is administered by the State of California, with joint state-federal funding. It currently covers low-income women, children, and some adults who meet varying income and disability requirements. Approximately 8.8 million citizens were enrolled in Medi-Cal for at least 1 month in 2010, or about 23% of California's population. Under federal health reform law, Medi-Cal is projected to receive an additional 1 - 2 million enrollees who previously had been uninsured. Learn more about the program »

Section 1115 Medicaid Waiver

A waiver under Section 1115 of the Social Security Act, which was granted to California by the federal government. The most recent waiver, approved in 2010, allows California to establish a “Bridge to Reform” demonstration program, and provides roughly $10 billion in federal funding over five years to help the State of California prepare for health reform. Under the waiver, counties can voluntarily establish Low Income Health Programs in the lead-up to 2014. Learn more about the waiver »

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The comprehensive federal health reform law enacted on March 23, 2010. The law – upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 – represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The text of the law expands Medicaid eligibility to include all individuals and families with incomes up to 133% of the poverty level, and simplifies the enrollment process. In addition, low-income individuals and families will receive federal subsidies on a sliding scale if they choose to purchase insurance via their state health exchange. Provisions also include the testing of innovative payment and delivery models for Medicaid and Medicare. Read a full description of the law »