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The Affordable Care Act and Libraries

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About the Health Insurance Marketplace

On October 1, 2013, the public can access the Health Insurance Marketplace to enroll in affordable health insurance. The Health Insurance Marketplace is part of the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law in March 2010. The ACA makes preventive care more accessible and affordable for many Americans. Some provisions are already in place, and others will be rolled out in coming years. CItizens not enrolled by the deadline have to pay a fee and pay for all of their care. The public is encouraged to use healthcare.gov to apply for health insurance. 

How Your Library Can Help

Libraries are in a unique position to help the public access the Health Insurance Marketplace and refer patrons to resources. Essential resources that libraries need to know about include the healthcare.gov site, Navigators and Certified Application Counselors, and the toll-free call center at (800) 318-2596 or TTY: (855) 889-4325. The toll-free call center is available 24/7 and offers help in English, Spanish, and 150 additional languages. The Navigator program is a federally facilitated and state partnership which certifies Navigators to raise awareness of the Health Insurance Marketplace and help people apply. Navigators are required to take web training, ongoing training, and get recertified annually. Libraries are encouraged to offer programs for the public with Navigators and Certified Application Counselors. Libraries in the New England Region are playing a key role in supporting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by hosting community forums, providing materials with links to the toll-free number and marketplace websites, and providing a meeting space for trained Navigators to assist the public to register for health insurance. Helping the public access the Health Insurance Marketplace is an ideal opportunity for a hospital library/public library partnership.

What are some roles for the library with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?

New England and State Marketplaces

In New England, some states participate in the federally facilitated marketplace, and others have state marketplaces. The Health Insurance Marketplace helps the public learn how to get insurance in each state. Maine and New Hampshire will use the healthcare.gov site to enroll, compare coverage and apply for plans. Other New England states have state marketplaces:

The IMLS/CMS Collaboration

The Institute for Museum and Library Services is partnering with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help librarians support the public to access the Health Insurance Marketplace. Librarians play a vital role in bridging the digital divide. CMS is encouraging librarians to refer patrons to healthcare.gov. Though, paper forms are also available, and the public can also apply via the call-center. Librarians and the public are encouraged to sign up for Marketplace emails and alerts on healthcare.gov. WebJunction, through a cooperative agreement with IMLS, and the Zero Divide Partnership will be engaging with the state libraries and public libraries to increase the capacity of libraries to help the public with the Affordable Care Act and requests for health information and assistance. Libraries decision how to help is a local decision.

Essential Affordable Care Act Resources for Librarians:

  • Health Insurance MarketPlace: a new way to get affordable coverage, includes information for individual and families and small businesses. Answer questions to learn if you qualify for lower costs.

  • OCLC WebJunction eHealth, a Collaboration between WebJunction and Zero Divide to support library capacity to respond to patron health information requests. The site includes ways to get involved including: reviewing the http://healthcare.gov site; identifying a staff member to champion library-related resources that support health information at your library, and keeping staff informed of new information as it becomes available. Sign up on the site to get involved.

  • MedlinePlus, Health Insurance Health Topic: the NLM’s health information site for patients and families includes many resources about the Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Marketplace.


  • Webjunction Webinars: Libraries and Health Insurance: Preparing for October 1; Meaningful Use: Libraries Connecting Patrons to ACA Resources; Federal Depository Libraries and the Affordable Care Act

  • CMS Presentations: Overview of the Health Insurance Marketplace; The Health Insurance Marketplace 101, Overview of the SHOP Marketplace

  • Affordable Care Act: Resources for Librarians: This NN/LM NER webinar provides an overview of the Affordable Care Act, the health insurance marketplace, and where to find training and official resources from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. We will cover the basics of your state’s health insurance marketplace and where you can refer your patrons for more help.


Author: Michelle Eberle, Consumer Health Information Coordinator