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Safety-net Clinics, An Important Part of the U.S. Health System

Access to quality health care in the U.S. has long been a topic of debate that often ends in more questions than solutions. Do we trade quality for quantity? Does expanding health care coverage water down the the quality of care? Who will pay for it?

Often it takes a crisis the size of the COVID-19 pandemic to force us to look at our current health system and the inequities that exist. These inequities are only exacerbated by disasters, whether they be major storms or pandemics. Marginalized communities continue to pay a heavy toll when we are faced with crises of this magnitude. The forgotten ones, more often than not, are minorities, homeless and those that are either medically uninsured or severely underinsured.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sought to address gaps in the health coverage system and led to historic gains in health insurance coverage by extending Medicaid coverage to many low-income individuals and providing Marketplace subsidies for individuals below 400% of poverty. Yet, the United States Census Bureau reported in 2018 that 8.5 percent of the population, or 27.5 million people did not have health insurance at any point during the year. The rate and number of uninsured people increased from 2017 (7.9 percent or 25.6 million).

There should be no surprise that this group will be disproportionately impacted by a global health pandemic. Stepping in to address this need are the countless safety-net clinics that are an essential resource for underserved communities. Safety-net clinics have long played a critical role in ensuring access to quality health care for non-Medicaid insured minority and low-income populations with a high burden of chronic illness, and they continue to do so today amidst one of the world’s worst pandemics on record.

In fact, when it comes to vulnerable populations, safety-net providers are thought to have a comparative advantage in addressing unmet social needs related to language, culture, employment, and transportation, compared to non-safety-net providers. What’s more, many of these health providers live in the communities that they serve, which helps to build trust and strengthen ties to the community.

MedShare is extremely proud to partner with many of these frontline health care providers that recognize that access to quality health care is vital to the ability of individuals and communities to thrive.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, MedShare has supported over 75 safety-net clinics throughout the states of Georgia and California during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided over 900,000 units of personal protective equipment to aid in their efforts to combat this deadly disease. To all of these health care heroes, we say, “Thank You!”

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