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Feature Story

Kaiser Permanente Southern California Commits to Supporting Safety Net

January 6, 2014

Detail of photo of people who attended the grant event. On the left is Edward Ellison, MD, Carmela Castellano-Garcia, Esq. in the middle, and Benjamin K. Chu, MD, on the right On the left, Edward Ellison, MD, in the middle, Carmela Castellano-Garcia, Esq., and on the right, Benjamin K. Chu, MD

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, additional health-care coverage options will become available to millions of people. Still, more than 1.5 million uninsured and underinsured Southern Californians will still rely on the “safety net” of community clinics.

Kaiser Permanente has had a long history working with community clinics. Now, more than ever, the organization has a renewed focus on the patient experience — in particular, preventive care and maximizing resources.

Strong ties and a more closely aligned mission were the themes at a Pasadena, Calif., event on Dec. 18, 2013, when Kaiser Permanente leadership and staff met with community members and representatives of community clinics to renew their commitment of support.

“We must ask about the value we provide our patients, and each other. We are all thinking more than ever about patient satisfaction, and better ways to manage care. We all want to provide the best possible value to our patients,” said Benjamin K. Chu, MD, MPH, president, Kaiser Permanente Southern California at the event.

Also at the event, Edward Ellison, MD, executive medical director, Southern California Permanente Medical Group, outlined the common goals of Kaiser Permanente and the community clinics:

  • To increase access to care for patients through collaboration among community clinics, clinic networks, Kaiser Permanente and other safety net providers.
  • To improve prevention, quality and health outcomes across health care delivery systems and communities.
  • To strengthen capacity and infrastructure of community clinics and clinic networks to operate efficiently and effectively throughout California.

In 2003, there were 315 Federally Qualified Health Centers, or FQHCs, in California. Last year, there were 687, more than double. Over the last 10 years, California Community Health Centers saw an increase in the number of patients seen on an annual basis, from 2.9 million to 3.6 million patients. With this growing patient population, the uninsured and underinsured in California rose from 14 percent in 2003 to 22 percent in 2012, which is roughly 7.3 million people.

“Each passing year proves how critical the safety net is. Every time I see these numbers, I’m reminded of how much work we have to do. But our load is lighter when we carry it together,” said Dr. Ellison.