Barbara M. Bibel
Oakland Public Library
125 14th Street
Oakland, CA 94612-4310
Libraries are an important resource for consumers seeking information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The open enrollment period began on October 1 and continues through March 14, 2014. Despite the glitches with the website, there is a great deal of interest because many who have been uninsured are now eligible. They will come to the library with questions because they know that it is a place that provides accurate information.
Librarians can do many things to help patrons in need of information about health insurance. They can train their staff and the public to use the available resources. They can offer programs that provide information and an opportunity to get the answers to questions. They can provide access to computers and assistance in using them since the application process is mainly online. They can arrange to have certified enrollment counselors available to assist patrons at designated times. They can partner with local government and non-profit agencies to assist patrons, too. The November/December issue of American Libraries has an article about Affordable Care Act activities in libraries (page 42).
Here are some useful resources:
www.healthcare.gov is the federal government website. It provides an overview of the law and explains the coverage options. Since these vary by locale, it is important for librarians to learn about their local health plans. www.coveredca.com and http://guides.masslibsystem.org/ACA are examples of local websites. The first is California’s ACA clearing house and enrollment tool. The second from the Massachusetts state library system.
www.webjunction.org is OCLC’s resource for library training. It offers webinars on many topics of interest to librarians, including the Affordable Care Act. There are links to relevant archived webinars here.
http://medlineplus.gov provides consumer-friendly information about health insurance.
www.washingtonpost.com has a series of articles about the Affordable Care Act.
www.infopeople.org is another library training resource. It is based in California, so the ACA information here is mostly California-related, but the best practices information is excellent.
http://www.healthlawhelper.org is a tool from Consumer Reports that provides users with personalized information about their own situation by entering non-identifiable information about where they live, their age bracket, income bracket, current health situation, etc. They can use it to link to their state exchange and find out how the law relates to them. A companion Spanish-language site is http://www.aseguratusalud.org.