What Can Libraries Do About Health Insurance?
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, expert searching, and allowing for quiet conversations-making them a natural location for trained counselors to provide outreach and education efforts.
Libraries can play a significant role in their communities with opportunities to provide essential information regarding the Affordable Care Act through a variety of services and programs.
What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Health Insurance Marketplace?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Obama. This landmark legislation allows for greater accessibility for many Americans who previously were unable to afford health care insurance or were declined access due to eligibility requirements.
The Health Insurance Marketplace is where individuals, families, and small businesses can learn about health coverage options, compare insurance plans, select a plan and enroll. Information is also available on programs to help those with low to moderate incomes including ways to save money on monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs through the Marketplace, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Healthcare.gov is your primary resource for information about the Health Insurance Marketplace as well as about the ACA for the consumer and is available in English and Spanish. Consider signing up for email and text updates for reminders and other important information. The blog also offers great information to keep you updated including how to prepare for the next enrollment whether you are new to the Health Insurance Marketplace or are already enrolled.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created Healthcare.gov it also provides information about the ACA law, some facts and features, including a roadmap to health and better care that explains what health coverage is and how to use it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has been designated as the HHS division responsible for the rollout of ACA. CMS provides information about the initiative, From Coverage to Care, to help people understand their insurance benefits once they enroll.
MedlinePlus has a topic page on Health Insurance with several links related to the Affordable Care Act as well as handouts in English and Spanish including topics such as understanding health insurance plans and healthcare costs.
Public Library Association
The Public Library Association (PLA), worked in partnership with Community Catalyst and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to provide several resources to better prepare library staff to support patrons as they navigate the enrollment process for health insurance. The Libraries Connecting You to Coverage initiative has ended but libraries may find some of the resources informative. Be aware, information has not been updated since at least 2021.
Listed below are selected tutorials from PLA's Digital Learn training resource for the public and library staff.
- Using Healthcare.gov to Enroll in Health Insurance
- Online Health Information
- Using MyHealthfinder for Preventive Care
Organizing for Outreach
Organizing for Outreach is an initiative, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to support enrollment efforts across the country. It serves as a resource to support your Marketplace and Medicaid outreach efforts.
My Health, My Voice
My Health, My Voice is the result of a need by newly insured women who were having trouble using their insurance. Though it was developed specifically with women in mind, it works with a diverse audience and is available in Spanish and English, with several print-ready resources. The guide is written in clear, easy-to-read information including 5 Steps to Care, free preventative services, costs, and more when using health insurance. My Health, My Voice is a project of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need with Parsons The New School for Design and the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Own Your Own Health (Washington Health Alliance)
The Own Your Health website contains articles and resources to help everyone make sure they are getting high quality care and a good experience at a fair price. Selecting a Health Plan includes short but informative health insurance topics, including a 5 minute video. Though the website is from the Washington Health Alliance, information is not state specific.
Medicare and Medicaid Resources
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website includes several resources and information including an Outreach and Education page. However, the Medicare, Medicaid, and Insure Kids Now websites are more specifically focused on the public. Consider partnering with local agencies associated with Medicare and Medicaid.
- Medicare website
- Medicare and You handbook to download in several formats including PDF (large print PDF available), audio, and ebook. Braille and paper formats can be ordered for free.
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage to eligible children, through both Medicaid and separate CHIP programs. CHIP is administered by states, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government.
- CHIP website is InsureKidsNow
- Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign's Outreach Tool Library includes fact sheets, tips, and more
NNLM hosted a webinar session focusing on health insurance and libraries on October, 2019.