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With the initial (but only initial, folks!) deadline for Covered California health insurance marketplace registration upon us next week, there has been much ado about information gathering, the Affordble Care Act, and public libraries. Thanks to the 82 who responded to Infopeople's own survey of California public library activities related to the Affordable Care Act, we can see ourselves in the national context. During the same brief window we asked for library administrators and staff to respond to our survey, a national survey of state libraries, conducted by WebJunction, yielded responses from 40 states.  Here's how things stack up:

  • 67% of responding California libraries reported receiving 0-4 questions related to ACA during the first two months of health insurance marketplace registration, while 55% of thos in Illinois responding to a survey reported receiving no questions related to ACA during the same period.
  • 73% of responding California libraries found Infopeople's distribution of registration-focused posters and booksmarks useful. In contrast, it is interesting to note that Missouri law prohibits the use of any resources to support or educate on ACA.
  • California, through Infopeople, provides public library staff with a Resources page dedicated to ACA information, an archived webinar with library and Covered California speakers on the topic (which 46% of California responders reported viewing) and a free online independent learning series on ACA and public libraries (which 11% of California responders have taken and another 34% plan to take). Other states are also providing their public libraries with helpful resources on the topic, including Ohio's [Federal] Health Insurance Marketplace Do's and Don'ts for staff. Louisiana, another state with no state-level marketplace and thus reliant on the Federal insurance exchange, also provides its library staff members with an online course on working with community members to utilize Health.gov. The Montana State Library gives ready access to public library staff on Affordable Care Act Resources. Washington, a state like California where there is a health insurance exchange separate from the Federal one, provides library staff, through its State Library, with a resource page on the Affordable Care Act, linking them to state-level resources as well as federal law.

Other state libraries attending a call-in meeting yesterday, organized by WebJunction, included Maryland, New York, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa, providing us with a mix of viewpoints and approaches from most regions of the country and representing both those states with their own marketplaces and those using the Federal one. In our discussion of initial difficulties reaching Latino populations, a national resource bubbled up that may help California public library staff clarify community concerns. The National Immigration Law Center has an excellent and accessible Frequently Asked Questions document will be added to Infopeople's Resources on the Affordable Care Act.

One more resource of note, available under the Publications and Articles tab of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Resources portal, is titled "Protect Yourself from Fraud in the Health Insurance Marketplace." This brochure is available for bulk order on that page.

Getting so many public libraries connected to whatever resources can lighten their loads as this massive national initiative continues is like learning any new language: we seem to have the vocabulary down well enough now to practice our conversational skills. And by talking about what we know and what we need with librarians both in California and in other states, we can continue to boost our effectiveness in responding to information needs.