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News & Opinion

Reaching the Uninsured @ Your Library

by on October 10, 2019

Contributed by Leighann Wood, Program Manager, Public Library Association, lwood@ala.org

In recognition of Health Literacy Month in October, the Public Library Association (PLA) is offering public libraries, especially those in states that utilize the Federally-Facilitated Marketplace, healthcare.gov, a suite of free tools and resources. This is in preparation for the next Open Enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) beginning on November 1, 2019-December 15, 2019. Libraries can start or increase their efforts to educate and build awareness of coverage options as well as the option of enrolling in Medicaid or a Special Enrollment Period year-round.

The passage of the ACA has seen more than 20 million people gain access to health insurance coverage through the Marketplace. According to an issue brief from the Commonwealth Fund, key findings were that “all racial and ethnic groups saw gains in health coverage between 2013 and 2016, but these gains were especially prominent for minority groups and individuals with incomes below 139 percent of the federal poverty level.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported that almost 8.5 million people in the 39 Healthcare.gov-participating states enrolled in coverage during the six-week enrollment period of 2019. This represents a 4% decrease compared to the previous year’s open enrollment numbers. Thanks to the hard work of enrollment advocates, including public libraries, the drop was much smaller than anticipated despite the drastic cuts to the Federal Navigator funding and advertising budgets.

Access to current and reliable health information is imperative for the wellbeing of everyone, and public libraries are frequently a “go-to” resource as people navigate complex issues related to health care, insurance, aging and more. In addition to offering appropriate information, libraries improve access in practical ways for people who need technology or communication enhancements, such as plain language documentation, assistive devices, or multilingual materials.

Health literacy can help improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs when patients and their caregivers seek healthy habits, understand a new diagnosis, develop a self-care plan and emergency instructions. Many communities and special populations rely on libraries to help them identify specific access points to programs which demand computer use to gain services and information. Great potential can be effectively realized only with increased training for library staff and effective partnerships that leverage library assets.

Take Action at Your Library!

  1. Important dates to remember:

Open Enrollment begins November 1, 2019 – December 15, 2019 for coverage that begins on January 1, 2020.

Learn more about what public libraries are doing to educate their communities about health insurance enrollment:

  • Free Webinar: Health Insurance Literacy and How Libraries Can Help hosted by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) on October 16, 1pm PT. Presented by Emily Vardell, Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Management at Emporia State University. She will be presenting information for libraries to assist their patrons so they can increase their knowledge about health insurance.
  • On Demand Webinar: Libraries Connecting You to Coverage
  • This free on-demand webinar helps public library staff plan for how they can promote the deadlines, educate their communities, find certified enrollment assistance, and support patrons’ efforts to enroll successfully. Learn how two very different public libraries are using free resources to offer essential guidance to their communities.

Go here for updates and more information.


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