Promoting Healthy Communities: Libraries Connecting You to Coverage

PLA’s Insurance Education and Outreach Initiative

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Community Catalyst logo
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation logo


PLA, along with nearly a dozen other organizations throughout the U.S., is working to promote health insurance enrollment and understanding. Our primary goals are to promote enrollment in the health insurance marketplace during the Open Enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act and to help educate people to understand how to use health insurance. As a part of the first round of funding, PLA has distributed quality materials and communications, and has offered $300 mini-grants to 64 U.S. public libraries (PDF) to disseminate, offer education, and encourage their communities to enroll in the health insurance Marketplace during the Open Enrollment period. Twelve libraries went on to participate in the second round of funding. The second round of funding application period offered 40 U.S. public libraries mini-grants of $500 to implement outreach and education activities for understanding health insurance and health information.

View the complete list of Round 2 grantees (PDF).

This national partnership to assist uninsured consumers in enrolling in the Affordable Care Act is made possible by funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Community Catalyst.

What Libraries Can Do

The 2020 Open Enrollment Period of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” is expected to run from November 1, 2019 to December 15, 2019 for states utilizing the Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM)*. Plans sold during Open Enrollment start January 1, 2020.

This page serves as a guide for public library staff with limited prior knowledge of health insurance and resources to educate and assist consumers with coverage enrollment.

*Dates may vary in states that utilize a State-based Marketplace (SBM).

  • Why should consumers should enroll in health insurance?
    • Peace of mind
    • Affordability
    • Financial security
    • Access to essential, comprehensive care
  • Familiarize yourself with what consumers should know BEFORE enrolling in a plan
    • Services covered by Affordable Care Act plans
      • Doctor visits
      • Prescription drug coverage, including contraception
      • Preventive care, including women’s health services
      • Emergency services
      • And more!
    • Costs of coverage
      • The differences between premiums, copays, and deductibles
    • Tools for directing consumers to local enrollment assistance
  • Familiarize yourself with what consumers should know BEFORE selecting a plan
    • Plan categories
      • Not all plans are the same! Learn how different options compare with their costs and benefits.
    • Provider networks
      • In-network providers usually cost consumers less than out-of-network providers. With some plans, out-of-network care will not be covered, and services will be full price.
    • Prescription drugs and formularies
  • Familiarize yourself with what consumers should do AFTER they get covered
  • Familiarize yourself with exceptions that allow consumers to enroll outside the Open Enrollment period
    • When one may qualify for Special Enrollment in an Affordable Care Act plan.
      • Birth or adoption
      • Moving
      • Marriage or divorce
    • Promote the screening tool at for people to determine if they can complete Special Enrollment or enroll in Medicaid or CHIP.
  • Be prepared to help consumers in special circumstances
  • Tell your community the library is here to help learn about and enroll in health insurance coverage plans!
  • Become a Champion for Health Insurance Coverage!
  • Advocating for health at your library
    Showcase the vital roles of the library and educate the public about the critical health issues your community faces:
    • Be a health advocate for your library with this presentation template (PPTX)
    • Use community health data to plan your services, displays and collections
    • Get the community active by hosting yoga, 5ks and other events
    • Promote nutrition through cooking classes, summer meals for kids, and partnering with farmers markets
    • Support staff to get educated about their own health and wellness

Resources for libraries:

  1. Enrollment Assister Readiness materials:
  2. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services:
  3. Coverage plans and more:
  4. Health news and program ideas for your library:
  5. Turning the Page:
  6. National Network of Libraries of Medicine:
  7. Insurance Jargon:
  8. Training for Patrons: DigitalLearn’s Searching for Online Health Information: