Health Happens in Libraries
Health Happens in Libraries is a program that magnifies the role of public libraries as key contributors to community health. By supporting public library staff with resources to respond confidently to patron requests for health information, and tools to form intentional partnerships with local community health experts, Health Happens in Libraries enhances public library capacity to advance health and wellness priorities in the communities they serve.
The Health Happens in Libraries team has engaged state and public libraries, as well as consumer health experts, to explore the context of meaningful health and wellness outreach and education in communities. These partnerships inform the development of customized resources and promising practices for state and public libraries nationwide to utilize in related patron services. Resources will be posted here as they are developed.
These resources are the most direct federal and state sources for ACA application, enrollment, and support information. Additional details about many of these resources may appear elsewhere on this site, either in our FAQ or News updates, though feel free to reach us directly with any questions about these sources.
Health Insurance Marketplaces
This is the official federal site for ACA application and enrollment support. Individuals from any state may access this website to learn more about the basics of the Affordable Care Act, as well as enter their state to identify the most direct place to begin the application and enrollment process.
Individuals in most states will utilize HealthCare.gov to apply for and enroll in coverage. Other states and the District of Columbia will operate independent application and enrollment sites in compliance with federal standards. HealthCare.gov, as well as independent state sites are broadly referred to as health insurance "Marketplaces” or “exchanges".
Be sure to identify the Marketplace serving consumers in your state in order to connect patrons to the most locally available and relevant resources.
Marketplace Consumer Assistance Resources
There are many consumer assistance roles to support applicants navigating the Health Insurance Marketplaces. Local consumer assistance may be identified using the zip-code locator tool at HealthCare.gov. For the states operating independent marketplaces, many relevant consumer assistance resources will be available through their state sites.
Professionals interested in learning more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and accessing resources to help people understand the application or enrollment process may visit Marketplace.CMS.Gov for detailed information.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Those interested in learning more details about the features of the law, as well as key facts and figures, may visit the HHS website for further information.
Libraries across the country are developing local responses to patron requests regarding the Affordable Care Act. Below are examples of the types of ACA resources being compiled by and for libraries. Let us know if you have anything to add to this list!
American Library Association
Information from ALA on libraries and the ACA is available here.
Local Library Resource Examples
Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City, NJ
Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY
Indianapolis Public Library, Indianapolis, IN
Lake County Public Library, Merrillville, IN
Santa Ana Public Library, Santa Ana, CA
San Antonio Public Library, San Antonio, TX
Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Topeka, KS
National Networks of Library of Medicine
National Networks of Library of Medicine has provided excellent ACA resources by region. You can identify your region and related resources here.
Statewide Library Resource Examples
Connecticut (from Connecticut Library Consortium)
Connecticut (from Connecticut State Library)
New Jersey (from NJACAPL - a collective of NJ public librarians)
Washington (from Washington Library Association)
Washington (from Washington State Library)
Below are some of the questions we have heard from library staff regarding ACA information services. Many of these items are also addressed comprehensively in the Navigate the Marketplace section of this site.
Please let us know if you have other questions, or would like to stay informed about this topic.
How can I explain the role of libraries in supporting the ACA to people who wonder how libraries are involved and what our role is?
Libraries have a long history of helping people access health information. A recent study supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that, in one year, 28 million people used a library computer to get health information.
We know that people will continue to go the library for health information and, as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, we can expect that many people will turn to the library for help exploring their options through the health insurance Marketplaces. Librarians are experts at helping people find web sites and information they are looking for. Library workers can help people find official Navigators and certified application counselors in their area who have special training to help people make decisions about health insurance enrollment through the Marketplace.
Public libraries are located in nearly every community in the United States and are recognized as a valuable community resource, offering public meeting spaces, computers, and allowing for quiet conversations—making them a natural location for trained counselors to provide outreach and education efforts.
What library resources are in demand for libraries responding to ACA information needs?
Public access technology usage and requests to frontline staff are likely to see the biggest impacts as people seek information about their health insurance options. How a library approaches assisting patrons with ACA requests will be a local decision. For example, it may be possible in some libraries to set aside public access computers in private areas to facilitate the application process, and other libraries may partner with local Navigators in helping connect people to information about the ACA and with completing applications.
How can I find out what health insurance Marketplace is serving my state?
As part of the Affordable Care Act, some states will operate State-based marketplaces, others will operate State Partnership marketplaces, and others will operate a Federally-facilitated marketplace. It's important to identify the marketplace information specific to your state, in order to understand the most direct source for local marketplace resources and support. You can select your state and learn more about its application resources here.
What can I share with patrons seeking ACA information now?
A good starting point for information about the ACA and health insurance Marketplace is the HealthCare.gov website. This site is the official consumer site for the health insurance Marketplace, and provides access to valuable resources that help to explain the requirements for individual insurance, application process, and how to get additional assistance in a succint one page guide. The site is also available in Spanish, at CuidadoDeSalud.gov.
Are there resources or training available for my library staff now?
To support professionals who may be learning about the health insurance Marketplace and/or helping people apply, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has put together official resources and training materials, including videos and slide presentations.
Technical assistance resources are available at:
Applications and forms are available at:
Outreach and education materials are available at:
Many of our patrons represent immigrant populations. What are some relevant resources?
Resources from CMS for specific populations include:
Applications are also available in multiple languages:
The National Immigration Law Center also provides a resource on the Affordable Care Act and Mixed Status families, available at:
What types of basic information will patrons need to have in order to apply for coverage through the health insurance Marketplace?
Basic information that patrons will need to have to apply for coverage is detailed in the following checklist: http://marketplace.cms.gov/outreach-and-education/marketplace-application-checklist.pdf
How else is enrollment being supported in communities?
Several consumer assistance roles have been established as part of the Affordable Care Act, to support individuals in enrolling in the health insurance Marketplace nationwide. Information on these roles, including Navigators, in-person assistance personnel, and certified application counselors, is available at: http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Files/Downloads/marketplace-ways-to-help.pdf
Local libraries can reach out to local consumer assistors and look for opportunities to partner in meeting community needs related to the ACA. Local consumer assistors can be identified using the search function available in English at LocalHelp.healthcare.gov, and in Spanish at ayudalocal.cuidadodesalud.gov. Many consumer assistance organizations are still completing the training and certification process, and the database will be updated frequently to add new locations as they become available, so check back frequently.
The Marketplace Call Center telephone number is 1-800-318-2596. Representatives are available to assist individuals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TTY users can call 1-855-889-4325.
What are the key dates I need to remember?
The current open enrollment period for the health insurance Marketplace is November 15, 2014 - February 15, 2015. However, individuals are eligible to apply for Medicaid throughout the year, and others may experience qualifying life events that make them eligible for a special enrollment period in the Marketplace. Learn more about key dates and special enrollment periods here: https://www.healthcare.gov/what-key-dates-do-i-need-to-know/