Health Happens in Libraries
Health Happens in Libraries seeks to improve public library eHealth services and increase library staff capacity to respond to patron requests for information regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This work acknowledges the growing intersection of digital technologies and individual health management (eHealth), and the opportunities for libraries to provide digital access to health information in their communities.
Beginning this fall, we will engage several states to more thoroughly assess the context of ACA and other eHealth needs in public libraries. These partnerships will inform the development of customized resources and promising practices for state and public libraries nationwide to utilize in related patron services. Resources will be posted here as they are developed.
These resources are the most direct federal and state sources for ACA application, enrollment, and support information. Additional details about many of these resources may appear elsewhere on this site, either in our FAQ or News updates, though feel free to reach us directly with any questions about these sources.
Health Insurance Marketplaces
This is the official federal site for ACA application and enrollment support. Individuals from any state may access this website to learn more about the basics of the Affordable Care Act, as well as enter their state to identify the most direct place to begin the application and enrollment process.
Individuals in 34 states will utilize HealthCare.gov to apply for and enroll in coverage. The 16 remaining states and District of Columbia will operate independent application and enrollment sites in compliance with federal standards. These independent states and sites are listed below, and are the most direct source of ACA information for residents of these states. If your state is not listed below, it means that HealthCare.gov is the most direct site for your patrons’ ACA needs. HealthCare.gov, as well as independent state sites are broadly referred to as “health insurance marketplaces” or “exchanges.”
|Connecticut||https://www.accesshealthct.com/||District of Columbia||https://dchealthlink.com/|
Marketplace Consumer Assistance Resources
There are many consumer assistance roles to support applicants navigating the Health Insurance Marketplaces. Local consumer assistance may be identified using the zip-code locator tool at HealthCare.gov. For the states operating independent marketplaces, many relevant consumer assistance resources will be available through their state sites.
Professionals interested in learning more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and accessing resources to help people understand the application or enrollment process may visit Marketplace.CMS.Gov for detailed information.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Those interested in learning more details about the features of the law, as well as key facts and figures, may visit the HHS website for further information.
Libraries across the country are developing local responses to patron requests regarding the Affordable Care Act. Below are examples of the types of ACA resources being compiled by and for libraries. Let us know if you have anything to add to this list!
American Library Association
Information from ALA on libraries and the ACA is available here.
Local Library Resource Examples
Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City, NJ
Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY
Lake County Public Library, Merrillville, IN
San Antonio Public Library, San Antonio, TX
Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Topeka, KS
National Networks of Library of Medicine
National Networks of Library of Medicine has provided excellent ACA resources by region. You can identify your region and related resources here.
Statewide Library Resource Examples
New Jersey (from NJACAPL - a collective of NJ public librarians)
New Jersey (from The New Jersey State Library)
Below are some of the questions we have heard from library staff regarding ACA information services.
Please let us know if you have other questions, or would like to stay informed about this topic.
How can I explain the role of libraries in supporting the ACA to people who wonder how libraries are involved and what our role is?
Libraries have a long history of helping people access health information. A recent study supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that, in one year, 28 million people used a library computer to get health information.
We know that people will continue to go the library for health information and, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we can expect that many people will turn to the library for help. Librarians are experts at helping people find web sites and information they are looking for. Library workers can help people find CMS Navigators and certified application counselors in their area who have special training to help people make decisions about health insurance enrollment through the Marketplace.
Public libraries are located in nearly every community in the United States and are recognized as a valuable community resource, offering public meeting spaces, computers, and allowing for quiet conversations—making them a natural location for trained counselors to provide outreach and education efforts.
What resources will be in highest demand for libraries responding to eHealth needs?
Public access technology usage and requests to frontline staff are likely to see the biggest impacts as people seek information about their health insurance options. How a library approaches assisting patrons with ACA requests will be a local decision. For example, it may be possible in some libraries to set aside public access computers in private areas to facilitate the application process, and other libraries may partner with local Navigators in helping connect people to information about the ACA and with completing applications.
How can I find out what type of Health Insurance Marketplace is available in my state?
As part of the Affordable Care Act, some states will operate State-based marketplaces, others will operate State Partnership marketplaces, and others will operate a Federally-facilitated marketplace. It's important to identify the marketplace information specific to your state, in order to understand the most direct source for local marketplace resources and support. Access the following link to Get State Information about the marketplace in your state. Additional state-specific resources are available here.
What can I share with patrons seeking eHealth information now?
A good starting point for information about the ACA and the available options is the HealthCare.gov website. This site is the official consumer site for the Health Insurance Marketplace, and provides access to valuable resources that help to explain the application process, and how to get additional assistance. The site is also available in Spanish, at CuidadoDeSalud.gov.
Are there resources or training available for my library staff now?
To support professionals who may be learning about the Health Insurance Marketplace and/or helping people apply, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has put together official resources and training materials, including videos and slide presentations.
Official resources are available at:
Publications, articles, and handouts are available at:
Training materials are available at:
Many of our patrons represent immigrant populations. What are some relevant resources?
Printed resources and support for the Health Insurance Marketplace will be available in other languages at:
The National Immigration Law Center also provides a resource on the Affordable Care Act and Mixed Status families, available at:
Is there funding to help my library in doing this work?
We are not aware of specific grants or funding sources for libraries specifically related to assisting patrons with these questions at this time. The agreement between IMLS and OCLC will support resources and information disseminated nationally, and development of a guide for state and public libraries meeting needs locally. It will be important for libraries to assess local needs, their capacity to respond, and look for opportunities to leverage partnerships and existing resources to address local concerns. As we learn of new opportunities, we will share them broadly with the field.
What types of basic information will patrons need to have in order to apply for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace?
Basic information that patrons will need to have to apply for coverage is detailed in the following checklist: http://marketplace.cms.gov/getofficialresources/publications-and-articles/marketplace-application-checklist.pdf
How else is enrollment being supported in communities?
Several consumer assistance roles have been established as part of the Affordable Care Act, to support individuals in enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace nationwide. Information on these roles, including Navigators, in-person assistance personnel, and certified application counselors, is available at: http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Files/Downloads/marketplace-ways-to-help.pdf
Local libraries can reach out to local consumer assistors and look for opportunities to partner in meeting community needs related to the ACA. Local consumer assistors can be identified using the search function available in English at LocalHelp.healthcare.gov, and in Spanish at ayudalocal.cuidadodesalud.gov. Many consumer assistance organizations are still completing the training and certification process, and the database will be updated frequently to add new locations as they become available, so check back frequently.
The Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center telephone number is 1-800-318-2596. Representatives are available to assist individuals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TTY users can call 1-855-889-4325.
What are the key dates I need to remember?
The Health Insurance Marketplace began accepting applications on October 1, 2013. The expectation is that people who apply between October 1 – December 23, 2013 will have coverage beginning January 1, 2014. However, the official open enrollment period runs from October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014, so applications will be accepted throughout that window. https://www.healthcare.gov/what-key-dates-do-i-need-to-know/
Where can I learn more?
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has provided a detailed FAQ about the Health Insurance Marketplace, available at: https://questions.cms.gov/faq.php?id=5005&rtopic=1993