News & Opinion

The Affordable Care Act and Public Libraries

by on August 16, 2013

We all have heard about the new healthcare legislation, The Affordable Care Act, and many feel strongly about it one way or another. But politics aside, libraries will be faced with an influx of patrons due to these changes. Librarians already have a lot to deal with. It stands to reason that the demand for computers and internet access, coupled with the questions and needs of the uninsured will create more patron traffic in libraries across the country. In anticipation of this, public libraries are being called on to prepare. About 17,000 libraries across the country are slated to provide computer access and healthcare information to their users.[1] The true impact of all this remains to be seen, but it is wise for librarians to anticipate the latest needs and educate themselves.

October 1st 2013 is the date when uninsured Americans begin shopping for health insurance. To help librarians, the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded a grant to OCLC’s WebJunction program to “assure…librarians have the information and connections…needed” to assist their patrons with information on the Health Insurance Marketplace.[2] Many Americans have come to rely on libraries not just for books but for a variety of needs. A study by the IMLS, which reflects this trend, found about 37 percent of library patrons need computers and librarians for health related questions and issues.[3] The open enrollment process later this year could be confusing, and patrons will need access to reliable information. For those without computers at home, this will be even more important. One quick way to connect patrons to relevant information is for libraries to post a link to the Healthcare Marketplace on their websites.[4] Obviously, librarians will need resources too, and the American Library Association has created a brief online resource guide for that purpose. It provides a summary of the Affordable Care Act and other links. Learning the particulars of this policy transition will be challenging, but hopefully libraries can assist their communities by becoming another valuable resource.


[1]  APNewsBreak: Librarians to help with health law, June 28, 2013, accessed August 8, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/apnewsbreak-librarians-help-health-law-141539920.html

[2] Mamie Bittner, “IMLS and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to Partner with Libraries,” Institute of Museum and Library Services, July 1, 2013, accessed July 8, 2013, http://www.imls.gov/imls_and_centers_for_medicare_and_medicaid_services_to_partner_with_libraries.aspx

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Up to 17,000 libraries to help people sign up for health care,” Long Island Newsday, June 29, 2013.


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