Elevating the Safety Net - Frequently Asked Questions

Learn the whys and hows about Elevating the Safety Net, one of L.A. Care's largest investments.

What is the Elevating the Safety Net initiative?

Elevating the Safety Net is a long-term initiative to recruit high-quality physicians into the Los Angeles County safety net. The L.A. Care Board of Governors has committed up to $31 million toward the effort.

What do you mean by safety net?

The safety net includes health care providers who by mandate or mission offer access to care regardless of a patient's ability to pay — and whose patient population includes a substantial share of uninsured, Medicaid, and other vulnerable patients.

Why are you doing this?

California is experiencing a growing physician shortage that poses a severe risk to patient care. The initiative is aligned with our mission of supporting the safety net and ensuring access to high-quality care for our members, who are among the most vulnerable in L.A. County. 

How serious is this physician shortage?
  • A University of California San Francisco study projects a shortfall of 8,800 primary care physicians in California by 2030, just 12 years from now.
  • Shortages are already especially acute in low-income communities. For instance, Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital currently reports a shortfall of 500 primary care physicians and 700 specialists.
How does this initiative benefit L.A. Care members?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 60 primary care doctors for every 100,000 people, with 80 being preferable, to ensure high quality care. Right now, Los Angeles County has only 56 primary care physicians per 100,000 people.

More primary care physicians mean better access for L.A. Care members and other community members. Each new recruit under Elevating the Safety Net could potentially treat up to 2,000 new patients per year.

What are the grant programs and what will they do?
  • The Provider Recruitment Program provides salary subsidies, sign-on bonuses, and/or relocation costs up to $125,000 to recruit highly-qualified and seasoned physicians to the safety net.
  • The Provider Loan Repayment Program provides loan repayments for physicians recruited into the safety net in year one. Physicians will receive up to $5,000 per month for 36 months, with an opportunity to extend for an additional two years.
  • The L.A. Care Elevating the Safety Net Scholarship Program provides eight medical school scholarships each year: four to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and four to Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
  • The Residency Support Program establishes new residency positions at Los Angeles County medical facilities.
Who is eligible for these grant programs?
  • Contracted providers in L.A. Care's Medi-Cal network who provide primary health services to Medi-Cal patients and other vulnerable populations will be eligible for salary subsidies, sign-on bonuses and/or relocation coasts up to $125,000. We anticipate this will benefit up to 25 clinics and practices in year one.
  • Primary care providers recruited into the safety net will be eligible to apply for the loan repayment (up to $5,000 per month for 36 months, with an opportunity to extend for an additional two years) that will be administered by an outside nonprofit. We anticipate up to 25 physicians will benefit from this program in year one.
  • The scholarship students are chosen by the schools based both on financial need and the student's expressed desire to work in underserved and vulnerable communities.
How many physicians do you anticipate this will add to the safety net?

We have not set a specific goal, but we are hoping to do at least as well as the Inland Empire Health Plan did with a similar project. 

In 2014, the health plan allocated $31 million to its Network Expansion Fund and to date, it has attracted almost 200 new physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to practice in the Inland Empire.

Why not put this money into something that will benefit L.A. Care members right now?

Recruitment of highly-qualified, seasoned physicians will benefit members, both now and in the future, and is in full alignment with our mission and purpose.

Will this completely prevent the projected physician shortfall in L.A. County?

No, this is a serious long-term problem that is going to require action by the wider healthcare industry, but it is a critical first step for L.A. Care and its members.