by Barbara Bibel, Consumer Health Information Specialist
Oakland Public Library
Public libraries are user-friendly community resources, so it is no surprise that people seeking information about the Affordable Care Act turn to the library. The Oakland Public Library serves a very diverse population of over 400,000, many of whom have no health insurance. But they now have an opportunity to obtain it! California is one of the first states to set up its own insurance exchange to implement the new law. It is called Covered California. Community involvement is a major part of the plan to educate and enroll eligible participants. The Oakland Public Library has done a number of activities to educate and assist its patrons. The library is an official community partner.
On October 4th, we had a training session for the staff, presented by the Alameda County Health Services and Social Services agencies. Staff from Eden I&R, a social services referral agency, and the Alameda County Public Library System attended as well. Everyone learned about the various insurance options, enrollment requirements, and participating health plans. The Main Library has a certified enrollment counselor from the G.R.E.E.N. Foundation (TGF), a local non-profit agency, available at the library every Wednesday afternoon. She has a station in the computer lab near two computers set aside for patrons who want to sign up for coverage. The counselor is there to answer questions and help people navigate the website. The Main Library and several branches have also presented programs about the Affordable Care Act and Covered California to introduce people to the plan, and librarians at the reference desk answer questions about it. In addition, the library has an Affordable Care Act page on its website with information resources.
The library also participated in a community health fair at Laney College, which was sponsored by local government and non-profit agencies. Many people came to learn about health, participate in screenings, and get information about Covered California. It was a big success. All of these activities demonstrate the importance of libraries as a link in the health information chain!