March 23 marked the 10-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also commonly known as Obamacare. Since its inception more than 20 million people have gained health coverage, pushing the uninsured rate to an all-time low, but many still remain without coverage. Despite the ever-increasing challenges for libraries and library staffers during this time, one fact remains: libraries still play a role in public health and our communities depend on us as connectors to information.
Through the Public Library Association’s (PLA) second annual Libraries Connecting You to Coverage initiative, libraries can access a suite of turnkey resources to start or increase efforts to educate and build awareness of health insurance coverage options, especially with the evolving workforce landscape. With the outbreak of COVID-19, many patrons may experience job cuts and layoffs, and many uninsured people in our communities may be wondering if they can now enroll in a health insurance plan. Forty percent of uninsured workers are in occupations that involve serving the general public, including librarians, library assistants and clerks, according to the Occupational Information Network.
On March 20, more than 200 organizations sent a letter urging the federal government to expand opportunities for Americans to enroll in health coverage through the ACA health insurance marketplace. Currently, individuals in states that use the healthcare.gov federally facilitated marketplace are ineligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) because the federal government has not yet authorized a SEP because of the COVID-19 outbreak. SEPs are times outside the yearly Open Enrollment Period when you can sign up for health insurance as a part of ACA. You may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period if you’ve experienced certain life events, including losing health coverage (e.g., job loss), moving, getting married, having a baby, or adopting a child.
Access to current and reliable health information is imperative for the well-being of all Americans, and public libraries are frequently a trusted, “go-to” resource as people navigate complex issues of health care, insurance, aging, and more.
Libraries can ACT NOW with premade materials for:
- Coverage options, including Medicaid or Special Enrollment Period
- Using your health insurance
- Preventive care
- Social media–friendly assets
- Radio ad scripts
- Spanish-language assets
A healthy community requires that all different sectors of it—across demographic groups with varying health needs—have access to information and resources to address health care concerns, prevention, support programs, and more. As essential anchor institutions, libraries can act now to educate their staff and communities about the options they have, the resources they need, and how to prepare for the uncertainty ahead.
Questions about PLA’s health initiatives may be directed to Leighann Wood, PLA program manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.