Learning about the ACA
Q. It was in our local newspaper last weekend that at the ALA Annual Conference it was going to be announced that libraries are going to be a main source for citizens during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Are you aware of any training or guidance available to ensure that library staff are well-educated for the public?
And yes, libraries will be a key resource for members of our communities seeking accurate information on the provisions of the law and how it affects them—just as libraries have provided assistance with digital television transition, learning about citizenship and passport information, Medicare drug discount cards, voter registration or voting locations, and using public access computers to get disaster relief information, to name a few examples.
First, a little background on the law. The Affordable Care Act, which was passed by Congress and then signed into law by the President on March 23, 2010, and upheld by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2012, is being phased in over a four-year period. On October 1, 2013, open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace begins, with coverage beginning after January 1, 2014. HealthCare.gov, a consumer site for information on the law provides a link to the text of the law, along with additional information on the Health Insurance Marketplace, which are called "exchanges" in some reports. It is estimated that the 15% of Americans without insurance from their employer or through Medicare will be seeking coverage through the Marketplace.
With the IMLS grant to OCLC Webjunction announced just days ago, the process for rolling out information is only beginning. We will be linking to this information as it becomes available on our Affordable Care Act resource guide. These updates will also be reported widely, but definitely through the ALA Washington Office's Capwiz and District Dispatch services; sign up at http://capwiz.com/ala/mlm/signup/.
Why is having this information available so important? As thriving community centers, libraries are trusted places that Americans look to for government assistance and support. As reported in the 2010 brief, U.S. Public Libraries & E-Government Services, the delivery of governmental services via the Internet is growing, and for many Americans the public library is their only access to the Internet. Similarly, Opportunity for All: How Library Policies and Practices Impact Public Internet Access, a 2011 IMLS study, showed that an estimated 37 percent of library computer users (28 million people) use library computers and seek assistance from librarians for health and wellness issues, including learning about medical conditions, finding health care providers, and assessing health insurance options.
Initial post 7-3-2013; link added 7-11-2013.