Health Safety Net Providers

The health safety net helps Virginians who don’t have health insurance or can’t afford health services. What are health safety net practices and what role does each play?

Community Health Centers (CHCs) are nonprofit organizations that provide primary health care, health education, and wellness outreach in medically-underserved communities and for vulnerable populations. CHCs:

  • Are located in or serve high-need communities. See this map of Virginia Community Health Centers for locations and links to CHC websites.
  • Deliver comprehensive primary health care and supportive services
  • May also offer dental and behavioral health services
  • Provide care for both insured and uninsured patients
  • CHCs provide services for uninsured patients, with fees adjusted for ability to pay, and accept public (Medicaid, Medicare) and private insurance
  • Receive federal grant funding, if designated Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). “Look-alike” CHCs do not receive federal FQHC funds. “Look-alikes” do benefit from public medical malpractice coverage and enhanced reimbursement rates.

Virginia’s free and charitable clinics provide low-income, uninsured patients with free or low-cost health services. Free and charitable clinics:

  • Serve the uninsured in many Virginia localities. Please see this map of Free and Charitable Clinics in Virginia for locations and links to free and charitable clinic websites.
  • Depend on community support and partnership with other health-related organizations
  • Rely on services donated by volunteer providers, including doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, nurses, dental hygienists, mental health professionals. Individuals who are not healthcare providers may also volunteer at free and charitable clinics.
  • May be faith-based
  • Vary greatly in terms of days and hours of operation and services provided
  • Do not receive federal funding, like FQHCs do

Local health departments offer varying degrees of health care services, depending on the location. Services range from immunizations to prenatal care to testing and/or treatment for STDs. A few local health departments offer dental services. Consult this map of VDH offices statewide.

Hospitals provide a significant health safety net care for patients requiring emergency and hospital services. Hospitals and health systems have financial policies established to help with medical bills for uninsured and underinsured patients.

Last Updated on June 7, 2023