Renae Barger, Executive Director
No doubt, many public and hospital libraries are beginning to see an influx of questions surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and health insurance options. Libraries are known to provide unbiased access to information, making them a logical choice for consumers to turn to for ACA information. As a regional medical library, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region (NN/LM MAR) is dedicated to providing updates to library staff on available information resources to assist with understanding the ACA and supporting the general public in making informed decisions.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. Since the law passed:
Beginning in October, Americans will experience a new way to buy health insurance—the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Health Insurance Marketplace, also called an Exchange, will let Americans compare competitive, private health insurance options based on price, benefits, quality, and other features. All health plans offered on the Marketplace must cover a comprehensive set of benefits, including physician visits, preventive care, hospital stays, and prescriptions. Plans must also treat everyone fairly; discrimination against preexisting conditions will be banned.1 The Marketplace is anticipated to give consumers a clear picture of costs and benefits before making a choice. Enrollment in the Marketplace begins October 1 with insurance coverage beginning as early as January 1, 2014. Consumers will only need to fill out a single application on the Marketplace to choose from the health plans available in their area; to learn if they qualify for programs like Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program; or to find out if they qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums or out-of-pocket costs.
Each state had the flexibility to establish a Marketplace to meet the needs of its citizens. Some states, such as New York, received grants to create and operate their own Marketplace (State-Based Marketplace). Other states, such as Delaware, will work with the federal government in a State Partnership Marketplace model which allows states to make key decisions and tailor the marketplace to local needs and market conditions. The remaining states in our region, such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will have a Federally-Facilitated Marketplace.2, 3 A state may apply at any time to run its own Marketplace in future years.
No matter what state a person lives in, and no matter which Marketplace model is used, you will be able to get live, in-person assistance as you go through the process of applying for and choosing new coverage options in the Marketplace. Individuals can help provide that assistance in a variety of roles. They can become Navigators, non-Navigator assistance personnel, or certified application counselors. Also, agents and brokers can help consumers enroll in new coverage options.4 The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) explains the roles of those individuals who will be available to provide such assistance.
What Can Library Staff Do to Assist Consumers?
How Can Library Staff Get Updates?
What Training and Resources are Available for Library Staff?
NN/LM MAR will continue to provide updates that aim to help library staff connect patrons to available resources and community experts as they become available. Updates from key resources will be continuously posted on the ACA section of our website and our comprehensive guide will direct you to a wide-range of information, including state-specific resources.If you are not already a member of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, sign-up now. Membership is free and it ensures you will receive important updates on new ACA information, our trainings mentioned above, as well as first access to all of our training and funding opportunities.
1 Health Insurance Marketplace 101. (2013) Retrieved August 19, 2013, from CMS.gov Training Materials and Presentations, http://marketplace.cms.gov/training/get-training.html.
2 State Health Insurance Marketplaces. (2013) Retrieved August 19, 2013, from http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Fact-Sheets-and-FAQs/state-marketplaces.html.
3 Health Policy Brief. (2013) Retrieved August 19, 2013 from http://healthaffairs.org/healthpolicybriefs/brief_pdfs/healthpolicybrief_96.pdf
4 Assistance Roles to Help Consumers Apply & Enroll in Health Coverage through the Marketplace. (2013). Retrieved August 16, 2013, from http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Files/Downloads/marketplace-ways-to-help.pdf.