The Affordable Care Act and Libraries

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About the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes preventive care more accessible and affordable for many Americans.  President Obama signed the ACA into law on March 23, 2010.   According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “the Affordable Care Act puts consumers back in charge of their health care.  Under the law, a new “Patient’s Bill of Rights” gives the American people the stability and flexibility they need to make informed choices about their health.” Key features of the ACA include preventive care covered at no cost to you, extended coverage for young adults through age 26 on their parent’s health plan, and prohibiting discrimination due to pre-existing conditions or gender. To view all the The HHS site includes a year-by-year timeline of the roll out of the ACA.

Read the full text of the Affordable Care Act.

About the Health Insurance Marketplace

The ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace, also referred to as the health insurance exchange, provides the public with affordable health insurance.  The CMS’s one-page guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace provides a quick rundown on the most important things to know about the Marketplace including who’s eligible to use the Marketplace, dates/deadlines, and how to get started.

Learn about the steps individuals will want to take during the upcoming open enrollment period in this handout: 5 Steps to Staying Covered Through the Marketplace.

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 site to enroll, compare coverage and apply for plans. Other New England states have state marketplaces:

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 site, Navigators/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 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?


Health Happens in Libraries

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. 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. Librarians and the public are encouraged to sign up for Marketplace emails and alerts on Over the past year, WebJunction’s Health Happens in Libraries initiative has hosted many informative webinars to help libraries support the implementation of the ACA.

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.
  • From Coverage to Care: A Roadmap to Better Care and a Healthier You:  an initiative to help people with new health care coverage understand their benefits and connect to primary care and the preventive services that are right for them, so they can live a long and healthy life.
  • Health Happens in Libraries: an initiative to support library capacity to respond to patron health information requests. The site includes ways to get involved including: reviewing the 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.
  • 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.


  • From Coverage to Care: Connecting the Newly Insured to the Health Care System: (Jun 17, 2014)  Presented by Jennifer Syria from the Region I External Affairs, Office of the Regional Administrator Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, this webinar focused on the information and resources available to help consumers learn about the importance of health insurance and how to appropriately navigate the health care system. Topics included key terms, how to select a health care provider, when and where to seek health services and why prevention and establishing a medical home with a primary care provider is important.
  • Webjunction Health Happens in Libraries Webinars: Listen to recordings of webinars about 2015 Open Enrollment, Technology Planning for eHealsh, Prioritizing Patron and Partner Engagement, and Health Information Resources for Library Staff.
  • Affordable Care Act: Resources for Librarians: (Nov 1, 2013) This NN/LM NER webinar provided 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 covered the basics of your state’s health insurance marketplace and where you can refer your patrons for more help.


Author: Michelle Eberle, Health Literacy and Community Engagement Coordinator, NN/LM New England Region

Last updated: October 15, 2014